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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

A to Z Reflections

When I decided to do A to Z, I thought what would it hurt if I played with this blog. It had a combination of 19 posts and pages. Each day, it was not unusual to get around 100 hits. With no feedback, I left it for teachers to get the activities. They are all popular.

I learned there is a place for a light discussion of science. I would like to say I plan to post once a week. But I will try to post about twice a month. My plan is to post an activity on the 15th of the month. I have recovered material from an old hard drive. Technology has moved quickly; but, the fundamentals of science change quite slowly. On the twenty-eighth of the month in deference to February, I will deliver a topical post.

Thanks for visiting me folks. A to Z is a great experience in that I get many insights about writing and more importantly what I should be writing. I'm gladdened when I see so many taking environmental science seriously. I walk along my driveway. The front field is overgrown and teems with life. This beautiful world needs to be saved.

Love you all.  Ann

Friday, April 29, 2016


My first science fair project, I was going to win. I had my topic ready. It was zoology. Zoology is the study of animals.

The teacher said it was too big. Too big, smig my 12 year old mind thought. What does she know? I was going to win and I had the winning topic. I loved animals.

I did the project. I didn't win. I remember putting my project out in all it's glory. It was toward the end of the row on the gym floor. This kid who I did not think was too bright had a huge project. His mom was working hard as he watched. He won, I lost.

By the time I got to ninth grade, I managed a third place. I made models of isotopes just like the World Book Encyclopedia suggested in it's science fair project presentation. The teacher told me I had a crummy project. It was a model.

The project was not that great. The ninth grade teacher was honest. Science fair projects using experimentation are preferred. The seventh grade teacher fades from my memory. If it wasn't my seventh grade science teacher. Perhaps it was a project in elementary.

Anyway, for the A to Z topic. It is perfect. And I plan to discuss one item about zoology and that is symbiosis since that has a Z sound.

I've always liked symbiosis in that two different species work together. However, mutualism where both benefit was my real preference.

Pine trees have a fungus in their roots called mycorhiza which help the pine tree absorb nutrients and of course the fungi makes food and reproduces with the pine tree's help. This is a case of mutualism.

Parasitism is also a symbiotic relationship. A successful parasite does not kill it's host. So HIV is not a successful parasite. Interesting enough viruses are thought to arise from the organism it infects. Viruses are somewhere between the living and non-living world. They cannot become active and reproduce without a host. Other than that, they are just scrap DNA in the dirt or where ever they are.

A friend of mine whose family were ethnic Germans who spent World War II in the Phillipines tells about having worms as a child. She had an uncle who had peppermints that were actually a laxative. He told her she could eat some. Being a child, she ate the whole bottle. As a result, she had diarhea and expelled the most worms. After that, she began to gain weight and wasn't so skinny. The worms were a successful parasite in that they did not kill her. Their presence weakened her.

Commensalism is where one organism benefits and the other is unaffected. Small fish swimming with sharks to eat scraps of food that escapes the sharks mouth is an example.

Domesticated dogs are put with commensalisms but it is actually a symbiotic relationship. The beginning dog was a wolf-dog that was neither a wolf or a modern dog. It was in transition. The fact that the dog benefited from living with humans is evidenced in there was a decline in the brain. When animals are benefited by another species, that brain function not used tends to be loss as the two species evolve together.

How we know that dogs benefited humans too is that humans also had a brain decline of about ten percent compared to the dog's twenty percent. Dogs got more out of the relationship.

The wolf-dog defended territory, brought home meat, helped with hunting in exchange for sitting around the campfire and being fed by the humans. I have read but have forgotten the source that without dogs, man would have probably died out. Then we would have had a real planet of the apes.

People may think the dog today does nothing. But, my dogs do alert me to strangers. The terriers efficiently hunt mice which can be a problem. And their emotional support is tremendous. I have a sister with mental illness and the dogs in our home reduced her need of medication. She still needs medication. It is a chronic disease. But the mood elevation helps her cope.
Louise hopping to flush out mice.

What do you mean I'm not supposed to be on the bed?


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.        Margaret Mead

I think we all feel small when compared to the enormity of the world.

Humans are a part of the world's ecological balance. If you removed all the decomposers in the world's ecosystems, the living systems of the Earth would cease within a day. If you removed all humans, the ecosystems would become much healthier.

This is a sobering reality. But it is not the reality you should focus on in that you want positive action. You have to acknowledge human nature. This is like all those masks we wear when we deal with different people. One for children, one for the elderly, one for mom, one for the grouchy customer, you get the picture.

You have to be upbeat with your message. There are three things you have to remember.

1. Focus on one issue. If you discuss or list 20 worthy causes, you are going to get less support than if you list two. They did a study selling flavors of jams. People got to test two. In one situation, there were twenty flavors available to test two. In another there were only six available. The study with 20 flavors generated more traffic. However, sales were considerably higher when there were only six flavors.

You can overwhelm people with choices.

2. Focus on good news. People will read longer articles if they agree with the subject matter. It is pretty much like the adage, you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make them drink. This is something that people who work with the public learn. It is about communicating with people who are not going to be able to look at things outside their perspective. It is not ignorance so much as being to put yourself in someone else's shoes.

You present honest, easy to comprehend information.

3.  Discuss the successes. People like to back a winner. If you go to a political rally, they always have people that will jump up and clap and feign approval of a candidate because it is contagious.

You are selling an idea.

I got the articles for these three ideas from a CNN opinion column by CNN commentator Mel Robbins. It discussed politics so I will not produce a link. Nor does a political discussion indicate any of my own political inclinations. People feel very strongly about politics and religion and get quite passionate. That is why the world over will say, never discuss politics or religion. Taking care of the environment is the sane, nonpolitical thing to do.