Tough Puffs

Dandelions are one of those plants that people love to hate. They’re tenacious, perennial, copious; their tap roots run deep and even cut blossoms will still turn to seed heads if they aren’t culled early enough. Their leaves spread flat and wide, smothering anything beneath. If we didn’t hate them, we’d love them for their…

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One-Note Wonder

Historical recordings of bird song help identify a new species by its unique vocalization.

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Lessons in Listening

For the first time in its 59-year history, the Australian Science Teachers Association’s (STAWA) Secondary School of the Year award, an annual prize handed out in Western Australia, went to a school outside of Perth. That kind of anomaly deserves a second look. The school that won the award for science research is the Christian…

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A Murder, A Charm, A Gulp

A Murder It must be confusing for wild animals when humans constantly grow so much tasty food, only to try and keep it all to themselves. I see it in my own garden when the various fruits become ripe. All the birds I’ve fed through the winter are suddenly competition for my harvest in summer…

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It’s A Hot One

The little digital thermometer on my window here in south-eastern France read 50.1°C (122.2°F) yesterday. Today it’s even higher. Not that the outside air is really that hot. It’s just the sun heating the glass of the window to that searing temperature. Until I get around to moving the thermometer to a location that offers…

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Root Migration

What do a rare high-altitude Alpine snow flower and a sturdy South African cousin of the daisy have in common? They aren’t related, they look nothing like one another, and they are natives to completely different habitats in different parts of the world. But over the past few years, they have both been on the…

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Six of One

I have an affinity for hybrids of technology and nature, whether in art or engineering. There was the Coniferous Clock made of cedar, fresh and green in spring, brown and withered in winter, that told a simple tale of a year’s passing. Here’s a new take on using plants in a sleek design: The CityTree,…

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Stone Cold Facts

Switzerland just experienced its coldest winter in thirty years; back in October, several meteorologists predicted this winter would be Europe’s coldest in a century. From my vantage point on the Franco-Swiss border, where temperatures didn’t get above freezing and were further chilled by a strong northerly wind, I can testify that January was desperately cold…

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Clepsydra Elegy

It should come as no surprise that one of the earliest tools humans used to tell time was water. After all, it’s what we are, what we need to live. A clepsydra is an ancient clock system that, at its most basic, uses two bowls, one nested inside another. The outer bowl is filled with…

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Beneath the Sea

It always counts as a surprise when we find out that unexpected networks have been operating right under our collective noses. We use the word ‘discovery’ to describe the newness to our understanding, even if, in retrospect, it might be a bit like describing a city’s take-out food delivery system as a ‘discovery’ just because…

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