Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Raymo , Chet (2003-03-01), The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe, Walker & Company, Retrieved on 2011-06-08
Folksonomies: science naturalism

Memes

08 JUN 2011

 It Takes Numerous Experts to Explore a One-Mile Path

Of course, no one person has the time, knowledge, or skill to learn everything about a landscape, so in my walks 1 have relied upon the labors of generations of botanists, ornithologists, zoologists, geologists, ecologists, meteorologists, astronomers. cultural historians, and a host of other specialists who have studied with particular care some feature of the natural world. Whenever possible, I queried people I met along the way: the old people who grew up in the landscape, who knew it in i...
Folksonomies: expertise specialization
Folksonomies: expertise specialization
  1  notes

Chet Raymo lists all the individuals he needed to consult to fully understand the path he walks each day.

08 JUN 2011

 How the Path Became <em>the</em> Path

A crushing backload, indeed: fiddlehead ferns, downy woodpecker, pickerel, granite flake. Canada mayflower, moonrise, bluebirds, spring peepers, monarch butterflies, glacial scratches on bedrock, and, of course, the human history of my path, which in its transformations over the centuries encapsulates in many surprising ways the history of our nation and of our fickle love affair with the natural world. Step by step, year by year, the landscape I traversed became deeper, richer, more multidim...
Folksonomies: nature naturalism
Folksonomies: nature naturalism
  1  notes

How Raymo's walk become more and more infused with meaning.

08 JUN 2011

 The Science on the Path

A weed plucked at the side of the path might have found its way to the New World in a seventeenth century sailing ship. Scratches on a rocky ledge evoke colossal mountain-building events on the other side of the world millions of years ago that modified the planet's climate and caused glaciers to creep across New England. The oxygen atoms I suck into my lungs were forged in stars that lived and died long before the Earth was born. It is something of a cliche to say that everything is connecte...
Folksonomies: nature education naturalism
Folksonomies: nature education naturalism
  1  notes

A brief summary of the scientific concepts to be considered on a nature walk.

08 JUN 2011

 The Evolution of Photosynthesis

When the first single-celled organisms appeared on Earth, more than 3 billion years ago, they fed upon carbohydrates—sugars—dissolved in the sea. The sugars had their origin in chance chemical reactions. Life, however, multiplied exponentially; one cell made two, two made four, four made eight, and so on. Self replication is the essence of life. It was inevitable that burgeoning organisms in the sea would outstrip their catch-as-catch-can food supply It would seem that life was doomed to ...
Folksonomies: evolution natural history
Folksonomies: evolution natural history
  1  notes

If a microorganism did not evolve this trait, then early life would have quickly consumed all the naturally occuring sugars in the ocean.

08 JUN 2011

 Everything Comes from Stars

What gravity is and why it is, no one knows. Albert Einstein spent most of his life trying to figure it out, but the secret eluded him. it is simply a fact that everything in the universe with mass pulls on everything else. If it weren't for the initial outward impetus of the Big Bang, gravity would have caused the entire universe to collapse into a heap. (Indeed, someday the cosmic collapse may happen, if and when the initial impetus is expended, although the best evidence suggests that the ...
  1  notes

The Big Bang to the formation of stars, which formed the elements crucial to life. It takes 1,000 calories of sunlight to evaporate one thimbleful of water.

08 JUN 2011

 Spring Recapitulates Evolution

Spring provides a kind of annual recapitulation of the evolution of life on Earth, an opportunity to celebrate anew the greening of the planet three and a half billion years ago by the first photosynthesizing bacteria. All life—the whole glorious parade along the path—depends upon the photosynthesizers. As spring dresses the deciduous woodlands in its Easter best, the nonphotosynthesizers get moving too. Suddenly the woods are skittering, fluttering, munching. singing. From rock-hard seed...
  1  notes

First the leaves come back, photosynthesizing to produce the energy the animals will consume for life as well.

08 JUN 2011

 Tracking the Trails of Ancient Glaciers

On an outcrop of volcanic bedrock near the paath sit half a dozen erratic boulders, some weighining as much as twenty tons, of a coarse-grainned pink granite. Once, I chipped off a sample of)f the rock and followed the bedrock scratches northth, looking for the source. Like an Indian trail of bent twigs. le scratches led me several miles out of Easton into the town of Stoughton, where I found what I was looking for, a south-facing ledge of bedrock that under the hand magnifier was identical t...
  1  notes

By tracing the scratches on boulders, it is possible to trace the direction a glacier carried them from, and find their source.

08 JUN 2011

 We Cannot Return to Nature

This much is certain: The future of the planet wall not be a reprise of the past, a return to "a state of nature." The future will certainly be technological, increasingly globally homogeneous, and, in the short run at least, will embody the connectivity of the computer chip and the contrivances of genetic engineering—in conformity with Chaisson's law of rising complexity. American conservationists frequently offer Native American attitudes toward nature as the solution to our environmental...
  1  notes

Even the America before the Colonists was somewhat domesticated by the Native Americans, and we cannot give up our leisurely lifestyles.

08 JUN 2011

 The Potentiality of Matter

Early in the twenty-first century, the old dualism of matter and spirit seems irrelevant. In the new theories of physicists, the fundamental material particles—protons, neutrons, electrons—dissolve into a kind of cosmic music, all resonances, vibrations, and spooky entanglements. Matter has revealed itself as a thing of astonishing, almost immaterial subtlety The one property of matter that lingers is its potentiality. The hydrogen and helium atoms forged in the Big Bang possessed a built...
Folksonomies: nature physics wonder
Folksonomies: nature physics wonder
  1  notes

From simple hydrogen atoms, it is incredible what can become of matter.

09 JUN 2011

 Invasive Species Between the Old and New World

Many plants new to North America first sprouted up alongside wharves and shipyards. From there they made their way inland along new roads hacked out of the wilderness, and later along canals and railroad embankments, taking up residence in any sort of disturbed soil. Native plants adapted to quiet precolonial forests and meadows gave little competition to the aggressive intruders. As Pilgrims and Puritans leveled the ancient New England forests, their floral co-colonists thrived in a landscap...
  1  notes

How plants came across the sea in both directions to colonize North American and, to a lesser degree, Europe.

09 JUN 2011

 Origins and Importance of Water

Water is so uniquely favorable to life as we know it, it is hard to imagine life without it. Where did it come from, this planetary wrap of fluid, this liquidy bower? A standard story is that the heat of the young Earth drove hydrogen and oxygen out of chemical combination in minerals like mica, and these atoms then combined to form water. Four billion years ago the planet was mostly molten, heated by radioactivity and the violence of its formation—a vast spherical volcano—and the newly f...
Folksonomies: wonder naturalism water
Folksonomies: wonder naturalism water
  1  notes

The origin of water on Earth, and its formation in deepest space.

09 JUN 2011

 The Holiness of Monarch Butterflies

As we reached the tiny clump of trees festooned with butterflies as thick as jungle foliage, we Yanks buzzed about, snapping pics, taking notes, storing up impressions with which to later regale our friends back home. The Mexicans by and large sat silently in the forest, kids in laps, eyes somberly fixed on the massed monarchs. It was difficult to read their emotions, but 1 believe that many of the Mexican visitors to the Chincua Monarch Sanctuary were driven by the same urge that might have ...
  1  notes

A reverence instilled by appreciating nature is the only thing that will save it.

09 JUN 2011

 Chaos, Order and Snowflakes

In one of his most popular essays, "The Colloid and the Crystal," the nature writer Joseph Wood Krutch wrote about these opposing forces in nature. "Order and obedience are the primary characteristics of that which is not alive," he wrote. "Life is rebellious and anarchical." He was wrong to identify obedience and rebellion with nonlife and life. respectively. We now know that the inanimate snowflake crystal, so apparently lawful and static, grows its six-pointed form under the controlling in...
  1  notes

Nonlife produces beautiful order in the snowflake, where the vibrations of the molecules create different six-pointed patterns.

09 JUN 2011

 The Uselessness of Nitrogen in the Atmosphere

My 165-pound body consists of about 110 pounds of oxygen, 30 pounds of carbon, 16 pounds of hydrogen, 6 pounds of nitrogen, and 3 pounds of everything else. Basic stuff, mostly, the stuff of water and air. You'd think we could get almost everything we need to build our bodies by taking deep breaths and gulps of water. But it's not quite that simple. Consider those 6 pounds of nitrogen in my body. Our cells build proteins by stringing together chemical units called amino acids, and every amino...
  1  notes

Raymo describes how many pounds of each element there are in his body, and why, despite them mostly all existing in the air we breath, they are bound up in molecules so that we cannot access them.

09 JUN 2011

 The Promise of GM Foods

TEN THOUSAND YEARS AGO, humans learned how to farm. It was an epochal invention that made possible settled life, cities, craft specialization, writing, organized religion, architecture, mathematics. science. Now humanity stands on the brink of a second agricultural revolution potentially as great as the one that occurred when our ancestors gave up hunter-gatherer way of life and settled down as farmers. Scientists and engineers are poised to genetically modify organisms to increase the yield,...
  1  notes

GM foods hold the possibility of a second green revolution, allowing us to use less pesticides and less fertilizer and improve the nutritional value of our food supply.

09 JUN 2011

 Geese Flying in Vee Formation

One, two, three ragged files of Canada geese skim the treetops, preceded and followed by their honking chorus. I freeze in my tracks to watch them pass, heading south, feathers ruffled by the last warm breezes of the season. When their honks have faded into silence, I notice a chill in the air. The spinning planet has leaned into its winter curve, away from the Sun. And then, just when I think the racket has passed, I hear another barely audible chorus of honks, high in the air. I look up to ...
  1  notes

Evolutionay benefits explain the pattern, which is an example of order forged out of an even greater disordering process occurring in our sun.

09 JUN 2011

 We are Drawn to the Supernatural

WE HAVE, it seems, a fierce attraction for spirits: auras, angels, poltergeists, disembodied souls, out-of-body experiences. Mostly, I think, we are drawn to these things because we intuit—correctly, it turns out—that there must be more to the world than meets the eye. We inherit the spirit world from a time when our ancestors huddled in dark shelters at night and let their imaginations draw up creatures more or less like ourselves although lacking corporeal substance. But why should we c...
  1  notes

But there is so much to wonder at around us in the natural.

09 JUN 2011

 Teaching Children Science by Drawing Nature

The British and Irish emphasis on drawing from nature (which has lessened in those places, too) helped develop powers of observation and reinforced curiosity about the natural world. A child who has watched whirligigs and water striders on the surface of a stream will appreciate the importance of clean water. A child who has observed the clouds, their heapings and tumblings, their dark massings and silver linings, will be better prepared to understand the relationship between cloud cover and ...
Folksonomies: nature education naturalism
Folksonomies: nature education naturalism
  1  notes

American schoolchildren aren't pushed to draw and immerse themselves in nature; therefore, they don't get the appreciation for it and desire for biodiversity.

09 JUN 2011

 Compute Simulations of DNA are Cathedrals

Some images of the molecules of life, as they are displayed on the color computer screen, resemble the gorgeous stained-glass windows and soaring architectural members of the Gothic cathedrals. A cross-section of the B DNA double helix, for example, bears a likeness to the magnificent rose window at Chartres. The webbed vaulting of the clathrin protein and the flying buttresses of the sugar-phosphate side chains of the DNA evoke the same sense of architectural deja vu. No medieval architect c...
  1  notes

Just as stained glass tried to represent the hidden wonders of the world, our computer simulations represent wonders we cannot see with our own eyes to instill reverence and awe.

09 JUN 2011

 The Unique Properties of Ice

By the standard of other substances, the properties of ice are bizarre, yet ice is so perfectly suited to our purpose that if it didn't exist we should have to invent it. With few exceptions, the solid phase of matter is more dense than the liquid phase; water. alone among common substances, violates the rule. As water begins to cool, it first contracts and becomes more dense, in the typical way. But about four degrees above the freezing point, something peculiar happens. It ceases to contrac...
Folksonomies: wonder environment water
Folksonomies: wonder environment water
  1  notes

Frozen water works so perfectly for life on Earth.

08 JUN 2011

 How Photosynthesis Builds Energy Against Entropy

No law of physics is more basic than the law of entropy, the tendency of the universe to move toward disorder and death. But life bucks the tide. using available free energy wherever it can get it, and hereabouts the most abundant source of energy is sunlight. The mayflower constructs its tiny oasis of order by drawing upon a corresponding increase of disorder at the center of the Sun, where hydrogen is fused into helium. There, deep at the heart of our planet's star, is the source of the ene...
Folksonomies: entropy photosynthesis
Folksonomies: entropy photosynthesis
  1  notes

Storing sugars, reflecting green light, and being consumed to power predators.