Grass is the common name for the Gramineae family of plants. With more than 9,000 known species, this family is one of the largest on Earth.
Grass is extremely important to most people’s lives, whether they know it or not. For one thing, grass is a major food source all over the world. Rice, corn and oats come from grass plants, for example, and most livestock animals feed primarily on grasses. In some parts of the world, people use grass plants in construction (bamboo is a grass, for example), and wherever it grows, grass plays a vital role in curbing erosion. Grass is also used to make sugar, liquor, bread and plastics, among many other things.
Grasses have a very simple structure, and a very simple way of life. Keep reading to learn lots more, including how to get the stuff to actually grow in your lawn….
Where Does Charcoal, or Black Carbon, in Soils Go?
Scientists have uncovered one of nature’s long-kept secrets—the true fate of charcoal in the world’s soils. The ability to determine the fate of charcoal is critical to knowledge of the global carbon budget, which in turn can help understand and mitigate climate change.
However, until now, researchers only had scientific guesses about what happens to charcoal once it’s incorporated into soil. They believed it stayed there.
Surprisingly, most of these researchers were wrong.
The findings of a new study that examines the result of charcoal once it is deposited into the soil are outlined in a paper published this week in the journal Science. The international team of researchers was led by scientists Rudolf Jaffe of Florida International University and Thorsten Dittmar of the German Max Planck Society.
“Most scientists thought charcoal was resistant,” says Jaffe. “They believed that once it was incorporated into soils, it stayed there. But if that were the case, soils would be black.”
Charcoal, or black carbon, is a residue generated by combustion including wildfires and the burning of fossil fuels. When charcoal forms, it is usually deposited into the soil.
“From a chemical perspective, no one really thought it dissolved, but it does,” Jaffe says. “It doesn’t accumulate for a long time. It’s exported into wetlands and rivers, eventually making its way to the oceans.”
It all started with a strange finding in the Everglades.
Satellites orbiting Earth (2013)
Balancing Rocks in Central Oregon
“Geologists explain that the formations are the result of the aging, tilting and erosion of two layers of consolidated volcanic ash, known as tuff.
These ash flows originated from the Cascade volcanoes to the west many thousands of years ago. The top layer of tuff was tougher so to speak than the bottom layer, so as the ground tilted and cracked and the softer bottom layer was eroded by wind and water, top-heavy rock pedestals remained.
Discovered by surveyors way back in the 1850s, the unusual rocks were known to only a handful of people for many decades. They remained hidden in a forest of pine and juniper until a forest fire in 2002 denuded the area. Visible now from Forest Service roads and from boats on the popular Lake Billy Chinook below, the rocks are visited more frequently. Sadly, the formations pose an irresistible temptation to immature vandals and a few of the pedestals have been toppled. Fortunately, most are far more massive, stable and durable than they appear.”— Brad Goldpaint
The tulip tree reveals mitochondrial genome of ancestral flowering plant
The extraordinary level of conservation of the tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) mitochondrial genome has redefined our interpretation of evolution of the angiosperms (flowering plants), finds research in biomed Central’s open access journal BMC Biology. This beautiful ‘molecular fossil’ has a remarkably slow mutation rate meaning that its mitochondrial genome has remained largely unchanged since the dinosaurs were roaming the earth.
This webpage is about one mile long (depending on your browser resolution). It has one figure for every person on Earth, color-coded by region.
It is a stunning way to put into scale the 7+ billion people on Earth. I’ve zoomed in and out and my mind is just sort of blown. I don’t know who you are, person #5,779,280,035, but you look great.
Researchers suspect that the insects pick up changing gas emissions or local shifts in the Earth’s magnetic field.
These fluffy snowflakes, known as aggregates, form when snow crystals collide with other snow crystals. Many of these flakes also show some riming, or an icy coating. A new high-speed, three-camera system developed at the University of Utah made these pictures as the snowflakes fell.
Credit: Tim Garrett, University of Utah
Ice Caves Around the World
Ice caves come in two forms. A cave formed entirely of ice is actually called a glacier cave and as the name implies, forms in glaciers. Water runs through or under the glacier and forms a cave.
The other type of ice cave can be any cave type (limestone, lava tube, etc.) that has ice in it year round. These caves trap cold air. Water entering the cave freezes and stays frozen year round.
Glacier caves can be found in the Pacific Northwest and ice caves are found in many locations where temperatures drop below freezing. Once cold air enters the cave, it generally stays there.
A geyser is a spring that intermittently discharges water and steam turbulently. The most powerful geyser has been observed ejecting water to 460 m (1,500 ft) (Waimangu geyser, now extinct). For a geyser to occur, three geologic conditions are required.
The heat needed to form a geyser comes from magma that is close to the Earth’s surface. For this reason, geysers are associated with volcanic areas.
An water source must travel underground in deep pressurized fissures, where it can be exposed to the hot crust
A Plumbing System
Fractures, faults, porous spaces and cavities must provide a natural reservoir to hold the heating water. Constrictions in the system is needed to build up pressure before an eruption.
As the underground reservoir fills, the heated water rises by convection. As it rises, the water at the top of the column cools, but due to restricted space, it is unable to cool the whole system by convective cooling. This lid of cold water presses down against the hot water below, increasing the pressure in the reservoir.
The high pressure allows for the water to become superheated. The water at the bottom eventually becomes steam and rise up the column. As they exit the vent, the water lid at the top of the column is spilled out, releasing the pressure under it. With this change in pressure, the superheated water rapidly boils and is ejected out of the vent.
(Geysir, Iceland depicted)
Howard Ignatius on Flickr
This Week in Science - May 6 - 12, 2013:
- ESO & Oxford theories here.
- Medical device inspiration here.
- Pear-shaped nucleus here.
- Meat-eating plant in Japan here.
- Trophy molecule here.
- Ancient DNA here.
- Injectable eye robots here.
- Antarctica deep-sea fish here.
- Methane-based ecosystem here.
- Troubling carbon dioxide levels here.
- Metamaterial here.
- Winged hybrid vehicle here.
Landscape engineers: humans, beavers, and…termites!
We all admire the beaver for the way it can turn a linear river into a lake with a dam, but the termites turning the desert into a pattern of oases that allow permanent life even in drought periods for hundreds of years - that’s much more fascinating. -Norbert Juergens, University of Hamburg
Read the BBC Science article by Jonathan Amos that examines Juergens’ studies of grass “fairy circles” created by termites in the Namibian desert: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-21970408
Do termites “engineer” the American deserts to maintain water supplies as they appear to do in Africa? Will this change with climate change? Good questions for scientists about this behavioral pattern!
-Matt Preston. Photo from BBC
by Brian Larmay
Airglow (also called nightglow) is the very weak emission of light by a planetary atmosphere. In the case of Earth’s atmosphere, this optical phenomenon causes the night sky to never be completely dark (even after the effects of starlight and diffused sunlight from the far side are removed).[**]