27 September 2012

Nature's niftiest gifts

I studied biology at university because I was absolutely fascinated by it. I remain so, and I've been thinking about what some of the neatest parts of it are. There are certainly plenty more than those now popping into my mind - you could leave a comment if you want to add to the list below.

1. Beautiful things, like flowers, beaches, autumn leaves, mountains, babies and birdsong.
2. Seeds. Perfectly preserved, convenient little packages that spring into life in a bit of damp soil and make new plants.
3. Eggs. I think that if an alien looked down and watched chicken eggs being cracked open he or she would be amazed at the transformations they can undergo. Consider an omelette, or separated with whites whipped into a stiff foam for meringue - fantastic.
4. DNA. Tiny little proteins that conduct an orchestra that plays out to become a rice plant... a coconut palm... a lion... a polar bear... a bee... etc.
5. The combination of sun, topsoil and water. All life depends on it utterly and absolutely.
6. Trees and wood. For us humans, wood gives us houses, beautiful furniture and warmth.
7. Emotions. From a scientist's point of view, they are the fastest and most efficient way to get a creature to do something, such as run like hell or hide if a threat appears. Higher animals apart from humans also have the right brain apparatus to feel them, and it's likely they do. Emotions add such spice to life.
8. Variety (closely linked to DNA). From termite mounds to moles, kakapos to elephants, Mongolian throat singers to skyscraper architects: what more could we want? This universe is stunning.
9. Reproduction (also closely linked to DNA). Male body, female body... baby! My goodness, the miracle of it!
Anna, just born. Where is that breast?
10. The different types of matter and materials that we can make stuff from. (By Jack, who went on to ask me where platinum is found and whether dark matter is on the periodic table... such are our bedtime conversations. So often I can only answer "I don't know".)

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