For many people, the story of Charles Darwin goes like this: he ventured to the Galapagos Islands on the Beagle, was inspired by the biodiversity of the birds he saw there, and immediately returned home to write his theory of evolution. But this simplified narrative is inaccurate and lacking: it leaves out a major part of Darwin’s legacy. He published On the Origin of Species nearly thirty years after his voyages. And much of his life was spent experimenting with and observing plants. Darwin was a brilliant and revolutionary botanist whose observations and theories were far ahead of his time. With Darwin’s Most Wonderful Plants, biologist and gardening expert Ken Thompson restores this important aspect of Darwin’s biography while also delighting in the botanical world that captivated the famous scientist. Thompson traces how well Darwin’s discoveries have held up, revealing that many are remarkably long-lasting. Some findings are only now being confirmed and extended by high-tech modern research, while some have been corrected through recent analysis. We learn from Thompson how Darwin used plants to shape his most famous theory and then later how he used that theory to further push the boundaries of botanical knowledge. We also get to look over Darwin’s shoulder as he labors, learning more about his approach to research and his astonishing capacity for hard work. Darwin’s genius was to see the wonder and the significance in the ordinary and mundane, in the things that most people wouldn’t look at twice. Both Thompson and Darwin share a love for our most wonderful plants and the remarkable secrets they can unlock. This book will instill that same joy in casual gardeners and botany aficionados alike.
Charles Darwin has been extensively analysed and written about as a scientist, Victorian, father and husband. However, this is the first book to present a carefully thought out pedagogical approach to learning that is centered on Darwin’s life and scientific practice. The ways in which Darwin developed his scientific ideas, and their far reaching effects, continue to challenge and provoke contemporary teachers and learners, inspiring them to consider both how scientists work and how individual humans ‘read nature’. Darwin-inspired learning, as proposed in this international collection of essays, is an enquiry-based pedagogy, that takes the professional practice of Charles Darwin as its source. Without seeking to idealise the man, Darwin-inspired learning places importance on: • active learning • hands-on enquiry • critical thinking • creativity • argumentation • interdisciplinarity. In an increasingly urbanised world, first-hand observations of living plants and animals are becoming rarer. Indeed, some commentators suggest that such encounters are under threat and children are living in a time of ‘nature-deficit’. Darwin-inspired learning, with its focus on close observation and hands-on enquiry, seeks to re-engage children and young people with the living world through critical and creative thinking modeled on Darwin’s life and science.
Leaves are all around us—in backyards, cascading from window boxes, even emerging from small cracks in city sidewalks given the slightest glint of sunlight. Perhaps because they are everywhere, it’s easy to overlook the humble leaf, but a close look at them provides one of the most enjoyable ways to connect with the natural world. A lush, incredibly informative tribute to the leaf, Nature’s Fabric offers an introduction to the science of leaves, weaving biology and chemistry with the history of the deep connection we feel with all things growing and green. Leaves come in a staggering variety of textures and shapes: they can be smooth or rough, their edges smooth, lobed, or with tiny teeth. They have adapted to their environments in remarkable, often stunningly beautiful ways—from the leaves of carnivorous plants, which have tiny “trigger hairs” that signal the trap to close, to the impressive defense strategies some leaves have evolved to reduce their consumption. (Recent studies suggest, for example, that some plants can detect chewing vibrations and mobilize potent chemical defenses.) In many cases, we’ve learned from the extraordinary adaptations of leaves, such as the invention of new self-cleaning surfaces inspired by the slippery coating found on leaves. But we owe much more to leaves, and Lee also calls our attention back to the fact that that our very lives—and the lives of all on the planet—depend on them. Not only is foliage is the ultimate source of food for every living thing on land, its capacity to cycle carbon dioxide and oxygen can be considered among evolution’s most important achievements—and one that is critical in mitigating global climate change. Taking readers through major topics like these while not losing sight of the small wonders of nature we see every day—if you’d like to identify a favorite leaf, Lee’s glossary of leaf characteristics means you won’t be left out on a limb—Nature’s Fabric is eminently readable and full of intriguing research, sure to enhance your appreciation for these extraordinary green machines.
How does a Venus flytrap know when to snap shut? Can an orchid get jet lag? Does a tomato plant feel pain when you pluck a fruit from its vines? And does your favourite fern care whether you play Bach or the Beatles? Combining cutting-edge research with lively storytelling, biologist Daniel Chamovitz explores how plants experience our shared Earth – through sight, smell, touch, hearing, memory, and even awareness. Whether you are a green thumb, a science buff, a vegetarian, or simply a nature lover, this rare inside look at the life of plants will surprise and delight.
Cells to Civilizations is the first unified account of how life transforms itself--from the production of bacteria to the emergence of complex civilizations. What are the connections between evolving microbes, an egg that develops into an infant, and a child who learns to walk and talk? Award-winning scientist Enrico Coen synthesizes the growth of living systems and creative processes, and he reveals that the four great life transformations--evolution, development, learning, and human culture--while typically understood separately, actually all revolve around shared core principles and manifest the same fundamental recipe. Coen blends provocative discussion, the latest scientific research, and colorful examples to demonstrate the links between these critical stages in the history of life. Coen tells a story rich with genes, embryos, neurons, and fascinating discoveries. He examines the development of the zebra, the adaptations of seaweed, the cave paintings of Lascaux, and the formulations of Alan Turing. He explores how dogs make predictions, how weeds tell the time of day, and how our brains distinguish a Modigliani from a Rembrandt. Locating commonalities in important findings, Coen gives readers a deeper understanding of key transformations and provides a bold portrait for how science both frames and is framed by human culture. A compelling investigation into the relationships between our biological past and cultural progress, Cells to Civilizations presents a remarkable story of living change.
From semitropical coastal areas to high mountain terrain, from swampy lowlands to modern cities, the environment holds a fundamental importance in shaping the character of the American South. This volume of The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture surveys the dynamic environmental forces that have shaped human culture in the region--and the ways humans have shaped their environment. Articles examine how the South's ecology, physiography, and climate have influenced southerners--not only as a daily fact of life but also as a metaphor for understanding culture and identity. This volume includes ninety-eight essays that explore--both broadly and specifically--elements of the southern environment. Thematic overviews address subjects such as plants, animals, energy use and development, and natural disasters. Shorter topical entries feature familiar species such as the alligator, the ivory-billed woodpecker, kudzu, and the mockingbird. Also covered are important individuals in southern environmental history and prominent places in the landscape, such as the South's national parks and seashores. New articles cover contemporary issues in land use and conservation, environmental protection, and the current status of the flora and fauna widely associated with the South.