String of pearls

As we descend into autumn the days remain fairly warm but the nights are quite cool. We haven’t had much organized rain but there has been some and moisture in the ground contributes to the formation of heavy dew each morning.  Dew forms readily on clear nights when heat is lost from surfaces and the air next to those surfaces drops below its dew point. When this happens water condenses and may form the droplets we know as dew. Although modern, and not-so-modern, science has answered many of the great questions of our times I always encourage the young people that I know to pursue careers in science because not only do many of our greatest questions still wait for answers but there are more and more questions with each day that passes. Imagine my surprise when I learned that it has only been quite recently that scientists have begun to understand why morning dew forms so readily on spider’s silk when, for example, it will not form on a human hair. It seems that spider’s silk is not as smooth as it would appear and knots of nanofibrils are situated along the apparently smooth fibers. Moisture tends to condense around these knots and collects as the droplets which glisten so brightly in the morning sun. Does it spoil the beauty, mystery, and perhaps poetry of a glistening dew drop to know how it forms and why dew will transform an obliging spider’s web into a beautiful string of pearls? No, I do not think so. I believe that when we come to understand nature this can only add to a sense of awe, reverence, and an appreciation for its beauty. That it is all unplanned leads me to appreciate it even more and be thankful.

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