yes, but perhaps it's not 5 billion years ahead
when we face a planet busting asteriod that we
can't detect or dodge or the next ice-age (but
perhaps global warming will be good for something
so you're answer so far is "do nothing" too?
if you like signing petitions and putting some
action behind it try the one at the National
Geographic newswatch website for restoring water
flow to the Colorado River Delta. also, Sandra
Postel and others have plenty of interesting
articles/reading at the Water Currents section.
as for me, not sure yet, the worms and other
soil critters get to digest me, beyond that i'm
not decided yet because a lot depends upon if i
stay here or move someplace else. the older i
get the more likely i'm not going to have the
energy to start all over again from scratch, but
that is what i would really like to do.
i've always been happy with my own company.
i don't feel stuck, but we are near the bottom of
a deep gravity well which costs a lot to escape.
it may not be stuck, but it's darned close if we
have to get away quick.
the question to be answered at present is if
humans can transfer enough of our environment to
another closed system (space-ship, colony on the
moon, mars, or asteroid) so that it can be self-
sustaining. if we cannot figure that out then we
are stuck or we must change to a different form which
does not require such an extensive support
his form of happiness is not universal. not
everyone wants to be a farmer. some people find
their happiness in discovery or in other artistic
no matter what it doesn't get us into space
before lights out.
yep, so he's not so wise after all?
one of his claims in the book of his i just
re-read (natural farming methods) was that the
earth could support 60 times the population
(around 5 billion when he wrote) if it would
eat grains and vegetables. can you imagine our
world of 300 billion people? even if you strip
things down to very basic support for water and
calories and force everyone under ground i still
don't think the earth can support that many of
us and still have wild areas. already we see
limits based upon fresh water availability for
the 7 billion and the future is looking very
interesting already just at this level of
ecosystem disruption and exploitation...
while i agree with the general sentiment, previously
there were (and still are) plenty of things in the world
that are not safe to eat, yet we abide.
i'm looking forwards to the day when we know a lot
more about GMOs in food crops.
enough people would argue it is no longer life
anyways (the current ancients complain that their
children don't have much of a life as it is and
i'm ancient enough that i see their point).
funny. we might hit 90 next week.
our own bit of humour is that we have cherry tomatoes
that are yellow to golden colored, i've been waiting for
them to get red... that is what happens when you plant
mystery tomato plants. we sure don't need six cherry
tomato plants (for two people). they will go into the
mix when canning juice for sure, and salsa if we make
any this season.
don't freak out! deep breaths, in, out, slowly,
there ya go...
simulations are often a necessary step in understanding
any suitably complex system. :)
no-till wasn't popular then. there's a bit in
_Seven Years in Tibet_ which we enjoyed when they
were building the movie theatre and the people
digging would not dig any more until they found a
way to rescue each worm uncovered.
You taking lessons from tx.guns now? They love to tell you that you said
something (that you didn't), and then disprove it in they own,
inimitable, logic free fashion.
Seems that's where you'd be going after saying that perhaps global
warming will be good for something. I doubt that it will be good for the
starving, homeless refugees.
You want to kill Arizona's golf courses? TERRORIST!
It's a job killer.
I'll probably be moving soon too. I hate to leave this hill, but we're
getting too old to live on a slope. Living on the flat makes so many
When you consider how much we (Homidea) have changed in the last 2
million years, if we are still around when the Sun goes "red giant" I'd
be surprised if we recognized our descendants.
The Calvinist "work-ethic" can be over come.
Relax, your descendants may yet be able to transport to the star of
their choice, and tomorrow's science will indeed look like today's magic.
We call it diversity. Life doesn't give me meaning. I give meaning to
That's why provenance has given us a liver, but it only protects against
what already exists, not the new toxin on the block.
I'll take that in a good way, and not when we find out what they may
have done to us.
The way I heard it is that there are hieroglyphics on the pyramids that
say that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, and it is proven
by the behavior of the young.
So are we, but if the weather gueser is true to form, it will closer to
What a Pollyanna I am. Work starts Tue. at 9AM. So many projects still
to finish. I hope they have the AC cranked up.
In this heat, it is more like panting ;O) The peppers are loving it
To be fair, he did say "dig".
Oh, were the Jainists putting them on again? What a sense of humor.
Maybe they should have hired Confucianists.
when you've had two chances to answer a
direct question and wander around it yet
if an ice-age started in the next 30 years?
if the one offset the other?
perhaps there will not be the disruption and
if we get hit by the cosmic/comet lotto the
whole exercise may become rather moot.
if the golf courses were supplied with recycled
water and if they didn't use *cides i wouldn't say
much about them. better yet, if they were mowed
with sheep and green energy lawn mowers, then my
opposition goes down even further. i'm no big fan
of dead spaces and wasted water or energy, but in
contrast that green space may be less negative
impact on an area than leaving it as pavement,
parking lot or bare roof tops. if we could take
advantage of that green space (in the roughs and
the other edges) to provide habitat for bees and
other wildlife then we might actually gain some
level beyond what is liable to happen in an
otherwise arid region. take it up another notch
to using the space as a provider of green manure,
fodder, fruits, veggies and open to the poor for
free then you've got a bit more of my support.
the bad news:
and some good news:
i hope you can find a good place to be.
my guess is we'll have split into thousands of
new variants by then. some recognisable and others
Calvinist or Protestant?
i've actually done a decent job of it myself.
at a fairly young age i decided i wanted off the
common treadmill and made consistent choices
after that to get there. i made the leap off
at age 33.5
no decendents of me. i'm a genetic dead end.
like many i would like to think that i provide
meaning too, but a hundred years from now the
likelyhood of being remembered or understood is
faint. so i don't get a big head.
always a good idea to let someone else go
first. :) "yeah, you eat all those GMOs you
want and i'll try to avoid them and keep an
eye peeled for toxic effects in you and your
yes, i sure hope it works out ok, that we've not
crossed some point of no return.
haha, that would be funny indeed.
today was a prime example. forecast to go into the
mid 80s, but it didn't make it to 80. still the
sunshine is appreciated. gotta water some bit every
day to keep everything happy. better to spread it
out so that we don't have to draw on the well so
heavily at any one time.
:) get your pipettes ready!
yes, the peppers are coming along well here too.
finally was able to pick about 10lbs of tomatoes
today. some BER in the smaller romas that were
developing about a month ago in that heat wave we
had. this round of heat there is much more cover
and mulch to help.
my condolences to all affected.
ever since we started growing more dry beans
i've gradually increased fiber and while it has
special moments of regret the overall improvement
is well worth it.
i can dig it.
just a movie, but amusing anyways as it happened
we first watched it when i was starting with the
small scale worm farm.
the idea that some base human stock will
supply a better path forwards is likely a
false one if the designer has the knowledge
it would take to redo organisms from scratch.
we are not there yet. we are still in
the baby-step stage.
the future will likely be vastly different
than you or i can imagine. but it is still
fun to try.
The Colors of Plants on Other Worlds
The prospect of finding extraterrestrial life is no Ionger the domain of
science fiction or UFO hunters. Rather than waiting for aliens to come
to us, we are looking for them. We may not find technologically advanced
civilizations, but we can look for the physical and chemical signs of
fundamental life processes: “bio-signatures.” Beyond the solar system,
astronomers have discovered more than 200 worlds orbiting other stars,
so-called extrasolar planets. Although we have not been able to tell
whether these planets harbor life, it is only a matter of time now. Last
July astronomers confirmed the presence of water vapor on an extrasolar
planet by observing the passage of starlight through the planet’s
atmosphere. The world’s space agencies are now developing telescopes
that will search for signs of life on Earth-size planets by observing
the planets’ light spectra.
Photosynthesis, in particular, could produce very conspicuous
biosignatures. How plausible is it for photosynthesis to arise on
another planet? Very. On Earth, the process is so successful that it is
the foundation for nearly all life. Although some organisms live off the
heat and methane of oceanic hydrothermal vents, the rich ecosystems on
the planet’s surface all depend on sunlight.
Photosynthetic biosignatures could be of two kinds:
biologically generated atmospheric gases such as oxygen and its product,
ozone; and surface colors that indicate the presence of specialized
pigments such as green chlorophyll. The idea of looking for such
pigments has a long history. A century ago astronomers sought to
attribute the seasonal darkening of Mars to the growth of vegetation.
They studied the spectrum of light reflected off the surface for signs
of green plants. One difficulty with this strategy was evident to writer
H. G. Wells, who imagined a different scenario in The War of the Worlds:
“The vegetable kingdom in Mars, instead of having green for a dominant
colour, is of a vivid blood-red tint.” Although we now know that Mars
has no surface vegetation (the darkening is caused by dust storms),
Wells was prescient in speculating that photosynthetic organisms on
another planet might not be green.
Even Earth has a diversity of photosynthetic organisms besides green
plants. Some land plants have red leaves, and underwater algae and
photosynthetic bacteria come in a rainbow of colors. Purple bacteria
soak up solar infrared radiation as well as visible light. So what will
dominate on another planet? And how will we know when we see it? The
answers depend on the details of how alien photosynthesis adapts to
light from a parent of different type than our sun, filtered through an
atmosphere that may not have the same composition as Earth’s.
In trying to figure out how photosynthesis might operate other planets,
the first step is to explain it on Earth. The energy spectrum of
sunlight at Earth’s surface peaks in the blue-green, so scientists have
long scratched their heads about why plants reflect green, thereby
wasting what appears to be the best available light .The answer is that
photosynthesis doesn’t depend on the total amount of light energy but on
the energy per photon and the number of photons that make up the light.
Whereas blue photons carry more energv than red ones, the sun emits more
of the red kind. Plants use blue photons for their quality and red
photons for their quantity. Tin green photons that lie in between have
neither the energy nor the numbers, so plants have adapted to absorb
fewer of them.
The basic photosynthetic process, which fixes one carbon atom (obtained
from carbon dioxide, CO2) into a simple sugar molecule, requires a
minimum of eight photons. It takes one photon to split an
oxygen-hydrogen bond in water H2O and thereby to obtain an electron for
bio-chemical reactions. A total of four such bonds must be broken to
create an oxygen molecule (O2). Each of those photons is matched by at
least one additional photon for a second type of reaction to form the
sugar. Each photon must have a minimum amount of energy to drive the
The way plants harvest sunlight is a marvel of nature. Photosynthetic
pigments such as chlorophyll are not isolated molecules. They operate in
a network like an array of antennas, each tuned to pick out photons of
particular wavelengths. Chlorophyll preferentially absorbs red and blue
light, and carotenoid pigments (which produce the vibrant reds and
yellows of fall foliage) pick up a slightly different shade of blue. All
this energy gets funneled to a special chlorophyll molecule at a
chemical reaction center, which splits water and releases oxygen.
The tunneling process is the key to which colors the pigments select.
The complex of molecules at the reaction center can perform chemical
reactions only if it receives a red photon or the equivalent amount of
energy in some other form. To take advantage of blue photons, the
antenna pigments work in concert to convert the high energy (from blue
photons) to a lower energy (redder), like a series of step-down
transformers that reduces the 100,000 volts of electric power lines to
the 120 or 240 volts of a wall outlet. The process begins when a blue
photon hits a blue-absorbing pigment and energizes one of the electrons
in the molecule. When that electron drops back down to its original
state, it releases this energy―but because of energy losses to heat and
vibrations, it releases less energy than it absorbed.
The pigment molecule releases its energy not in the form of another
photon but in the form of an electrical interaction with another pigment
molecule that is able to absorb energy at that lower level. This
pigment, in turn, releases an even lower amount of energy, and so the
process continues until the original blue photon energy has been
downgraded to red. The array of pigments can also convert cyan, green or
yellow to red. The reaction center, as the receiving end of the cascade,
adapts to absorb the lowest-energy available photons. On our planet’s
surface, red photons are both the most abundant and the lowest energy
within the visible spectrum.
For underwater photosynthesizers, red photons are not necessarily the
most abundant. Light niches change with depth because of filtering of
light by water, by dissolved substances and by overlying organisms
themselves. The result is a clear stratification of life-forms according
to their mix of pigments. Organisms in lower water layers have pigments
adapted to absorb the light colors left over by the layers above. For
instance, algae and cyanobacteria have pigments known as phycobilins
that harvest green and yellow photons. Nonoxygen-producing (anoxygenic)
bacteria have bacteriochlorophylls that absorb far-red and near-infrared
light, which is all that penetrates to the murky depths.
Organisms adapted to low-light conditions tend to be slower-growing,
because they have to put more effort into harvesting whatever light is
available to them. At the planet’s surface, where light is abundant, it
would be disadvantageous for plants to manufacture extra pigments, so
they are selective in their use of color. The same evolutionary
principles would operate on other worlds.
Just as aquatic creatures have adapted to light filtered by water, land
dwellers have adapted to light filtered by atmospheric gases. At the top
of Earth’s atmosphere, yellow photons (at wavelengths of 560 to 590
nanometers) are the most abundant kind. The number of photons drops off
gradually with longer wavelength and steeply with shorter wavelength. As
sunlight passes through the upper atmosphere, water vapor absorbs the
infrared light in several wavelength ands beyond 700 nm. Oxygen produces
absorption lines―narrow ranges of wavelengths that the gas blocks―at 687
and 761 nm. We all know that ozone (O3) in the stratosphere strongly
absorbs the ultraviolet (UV). Less well known is that it also absorbs
weakly across the visible range.
Putting it all together, our atmosphere demarcates windows through which
radiation can make it to the planet’s surface. The visible radiation
window is defined at its blue edge by the drop-off in the intensity of
short-wavelength photons emitted by the sun and by ozone absorption of
UV. The red edge is defined by oxygen absorption lines. The peak in
photon abundance is shifted from yellow to red (about 685 nm) by ozone’s
broad absorbance across the visible.
Plants are adapted to this spectrum, which is determined largely by
oxygen―yet plants are what put the oxygen into the atmosphere to begin
with. When early photosynthetic organisms first appeared on Earth, the
atmosphere lacked oxygen, so they must have used different pigments from
chlorophyll. Only over time as photosynthesis altered the atmospheric
composition, did chlorophyll emerge as optimal.
The firm fossil evidence for photosynthesis dates to about 3.4 billion
years ago (Ga), but earlier fossils exhibit signs of what could have
been photosynthesis. Early photosynthesizers had to start out
underwater, in part because water is a good solvent for biochemical
reactions and in part because it provides protection against solar UV
radiation―shielding that was essential in the absence of an atmospheric
ozone layer. These earliest photosynthesizers were underwater bacteria
that absorbed infrared photons. Their chemical reactions involved
hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide or iron rather than water, so they did not
produce oxygen gas. Oxygen-generating (oxygenic) photosynthesis by
cyanobacteria in the oceans started 2.7 Ga. Oxygen levels and the ozone
layer slowly built up, allowing red and brown algae to emerge. As
shallower water became safe from UV, green algae evolved. They lacked
phycobilins and were better adapted to the bright light in surface
waters. Finally, plants descended from green algae emerged onto land―
two billion years after oxygen had begun accumulating in the atmosphere.
And then the complexity of plant life exploded, from mosses and
liverworts on the ground to vascular plants with tall canopies that
capture more light and have special adaptations to particular climates.
Conifer trees have conical crowns that capture light efficiently at high
latitudes with low sun angles; shade-adapted plants have anthocyanin as
a sunscreen against too much light. Green chlorophyll not only is well
suited to the present composition of the atmosphere but also helps to
sustain that composition―a virtuous cycle that keeps our planet green.
It may be that another step of evolution will favor an organism that
takes advantage of the shade underneath tree canopies, using the
phycobilins that absorb green and yellow light. But the organisms on top
are still likely to stay green.
It's interesting that nature didn't come up with the wheel, one of the
most energy-efficient ways of moving around (or did I read a few years
ago that there was some strange organism which could move like a wheel?
I believe that there are some desert spiders which can escape predators
by pulling themselves into a ball shape and rolling down sand dunes, but
that not really the same thing as a wheel). It's probably because the
moving parts of a wheel are completely separate from each other, and it
would not be possible to repair the revolving part of the wheel if it
was damaged, as it would have no blood supply.
That's not quite true. If it is assumed that life started in the sea,
it should have stayed in that environment, but it didn't. Some animals
changed (evolved?) to make use of land. Even more oddly, some changed
back (eg seals) to make lesser or greater use of their "old"
environment, whilst others, such as dolphins evolved (or should that be
regressed?!) to become totally dependent on their old marine environment.
Yes, that's true. There are quite a few examples of parallel evolution
(cacti and other succulents; alpines - particularly the giant lobelias
and puyas) to support that. If you know how to grow cacti - which are
really all New World plants - you will have little trouble if you decide
to grow lithops from South Africa.
And if you find it impossible to grow giant lobelias, you will find it
just as impossible to grow puyas! :-)
but some would say hydrothermal vents and crusts
of certain compounds may also be likely candidates.
i'm more in favor of foam/bubbles/oils/clays/muds.
i've seen them in action (building what used to be
called a skimmer in reef aquarium keeping as a
means to get organic materials out of the water,
pump a lot of bubbles through a column of water
and what comes to the top is gunk like the foam
that collects on beaches).
But the water is still the medium that allows for reactants to move
together, and assume the proper position for interaction, like an oxygen
atom dropping a proton [H3O+] as it rotates in to get a p-orbital look
at a Carbon nucleus as in a carboxylate ester.
Foam/bubbles/oils/clays/muds are just the results of having an aqueous
environment. Chunks don't really count, it's the ions and molecules with
charge separation that are important (in an aqueous solution).
I wasn't clear. The two statements I see no evidence for are:
1) "that's not quite true"
2) "it should have stayed in that environment"
I see no relation between your reply and what I said. I said evolution is
undirected. Saying dolphins "regressed" suggests that when they (their
ancestors really) were land animals they were 'higher' than as aquatic. The
same goes for tapeworms that had ancestors that had not lost so many
functions (that the tapeworm no longer needs). Fitness depends entirely on
environment and only has meaning in the context of an environment so one
organism is not more evolved in absolute terms but better or less fit for a
True but I don't see the relevance to this matter of regression.
I was referring to the earliest stages of evolution when structures that
we now call organelles were "free swimming", and not protected by
membranes. My point was that one can't go back, without going forward
first. I don't mean forward to perfection. I mean forward to adaptation.
If a mutation by radiation works, it works by improving an organisms
ability to survive, buy then you have short term, and long term.
A number of engineering problems exist in the human body, e.g. BONES
THAT LOSE MINERALS AFTER AGE 30, FALLIBLE SPINAL DISKS, MUSCLES THAT
LOSE MASS AND TONE, LEG VEINS PRONE TO VARICOSITY, RELATIVELY SHORT
RIB CAGE, JOINTS THAT WEAR, WEAK LINK BETWEEN RETINA AND THE BACK OF EYE.
These problems may be addressed some day, but how will that effect the
memory of survival that is/was stored in our genes?
We have existed as a Family (Hominidae) for 20 million years, and as a
species for 200,000 years. We have gone through a lot of evolutionary
change to get to where we are. That evolutionary trip is thought to
reside in what we call our junk DNA. We prize biodiversity in plants,
and animals. We need to prize it in ourselves as well. If we adapt to a
time, as we have noted in some of our food cultivars, can we change
again when the time changes?
Changing to the time is why we continuously need to make room for new
generations to try their hand at adapting, and for that we need all our
That was wrong. Mutations only help, if they help get you selected.
Sorry, time seems to only go forward (physicists may disagree).
Conceptual thinking may not be as good as red claws, and teeth in the
long run for survival, but as climax forests show us, there does come a
time when a given approach to life maxes out, and a new direction needs
to be taken.
The wheel is the most natural phenomina in nature. The wheel has
existed since the creation of the universe... nothing is more natural
than the "orbit" (straight lines don't exist in this universe). The
wheel has always existed, man has only relatively recently
*discovered* the wheel. Anyone who thinks man invented the wheel is
the same kind of pinhead who thinks man invented fire.
That's a question which comes up frequently.
There's an interesting paper on it at:
The current consensus is that the main problem with biological wheels
is blood flow, but this author addresses a different argument.
I haven't seen this article, I will have a look time permitting. One reason
a wheel is not much use for transport biologically is that they require
roads to be efficient. Legs are much better on broken ground and can be
adapted to climbing, become wings, flippers etc.
Also have a look at the bacterial flaggelum, it isn't a wheel that supports
weight for transport but it does rotate and it is powered by biochemistry.
Well, ATVs get around ok. Even caterpillar tracks are just a form of
elongated wheel. They have little problem with rough ground. Just look
at the moon and Mars rovers. True, they don't move far, but they can
get around. And remember there are vast tracts of flat lands here on
Earth - the prairies, steppes, savannah, etc on which wheels would move
freely and efficiently if Nature had evolved them.
Its interesting that Nature did evolve an alternative, and more
efficient form of motion than standard legs - that used by Macropods and
similar animals (although they are still, of course, legs). Storing
"elastic energy" is much more efficient than using muscle contraction
all the time. So why isn't that form of motion much more common around
the world? There are a few examples, such as jerboas, but you'd expect a
lot more. Maybe if there is sufficient food, efficiency doesn't matter
so much. So even when that particular evolutionary niche has appeared,
it doesn't mean it's going to be universal. And then, of course, there
are the tree kangaroos!...
Indeed, but it's limited to that size of organism. It could not scale
up. I guess it bears a greater similarity to a propeller than a wheel,
it is not an assumption, it is based upon the fossil
record found to date with the oldest specimens showing
that life did start in the seas.
the exact process and steps are not known completely
yet, but as time goes on we are getting more answers
and finer details of how it could be possible.
the only thing required for any change in an
organism to continue is that organism procreates.
the causes/effects of selection, environment,
mutations, etc. may be completely orthogonal to
the simple fact of procreation.
how niches in the environment become occupied
is also orthogonal. the sea to land migration of
both plants and animals is pretty well understood
now. i don't think they are missing any
significant steps in those two processes.
i agree about understanding how life came about
and learning what you can about life is valuable
to a gardener. it's also just amazingly
for one thing the possibilities are there
that life moved back and forth from the sea
to land from land to the sea several times
as different disasters happened. not every-
thing previously is wiped out, so different
creation phases coexist (and still do).
but in the past few hundred years life has
woken up and been able to start taking a
direct look at itself and the processes
invovled... all i can say now is watch out
it's gonna get very interesting.
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