Nature’s Depths

Walking through nature with John Palka, a neuroscientist who loves plants and ponders big questions

Exploration

Widow Skimmer Male

The Dragons and Damsels of Elm Creek

Exploration

The last piece I wrote for Nature’s Depths, dated November 24, 2019, bore the name “Beauty and Love.” Almost exactly eight months have passed since then, eight months since my beloved of sixty years left this world, eight months since my life was permanently changed. And yet, some important things have not changed, and walking in Nature with open eyes, an inquisitive mind, and a responsive heart is one of them.

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Visiting bumblebee

The Intimate Life of a Hollyhock Flower

Exploration

The back wall of the house where we spend each summer is lined with plants that have been among my favorites since my childhood—hollyhocks (Alcaea, most often A. rosea, Family Malvaceae). The stems grow tall enough to project above the rain gutters. The buds at the top give way to open flowers below, and then to maturing fruits near the bottom. Every morning bumblebees arrive to frolic in the flowers, flitting from one to another. A garden paradise awaiting a close look!

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Luminary Loppet ice xylophone

A World of Molecules

Exploration

Both living things and the non-living world consist of molecules. The molecules that make up each one of us are largely the same as those that make up every other person and animal on the planet. Molecules make up everything in the world of our experience.

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Bald eagle eye close up

Seeing with Different Eyes

Exploration

Sensitivity to light is so universally useful that many kinds of animals have evolved eyes. The structure of the eyes of diverse animals, however, varies considerably, and with this variation come differences in what information about the world the eyes can capture and convey to the brain. Thus, the role of vision in the lives of different animals cannot be assumed to be similar to our own experience. Let’s look at some examples.

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