Nature revealed

The synergy of work and weather has precluded much time out-of-doors with the camera this week so, out of frustration, I have once again taken to the archives. Although summer mornings here invariably begin with heavy mists, these dissipate well before noon. When I first looked at this image, of a tree down along the river bottom, I thought if turned through 180° you might think you were looking at a respiratory system. The dichotomous branching characteristic of apical growth in plants is common among both plants and animals. The architecture of respiratory passages is organized in this way, the trachea branches to bronchi, which branch to the bronchus, which then branch to the bronchioles. Nature’s patterned architectures have attracted the attention of mathematicians, other scientists, artists, poets, and the like, for centuries. In particular the logarithmic spiral, as exemplified by the chambered nautilus, spiral galaxies, and pine cones, has been much studied, discussed, and admired. This geometry is nature’s unconscious way of allowing organisms to increase in size without changing shape. We say that organisms grow isometrically when their linear dimensions increase at the same rate …  small starfish are the same shape as large starfish, for example. [The situation is a bit more complex for approximately spherical organisms such as molluscs … their pattern of growth is more precisely described as a logarithmic spiral.] In other organisms, such as dogs and cats, the various parts of the body grow at different rates and small forms differ from large ones in shape (such organisms grow allometrically). It has been observed that nature is miraculous and we marvel at its secrets and mystery. Often, however, when we stop to think critically and look more deeply, nature’s seemingly inexplicable puzzles reveal themselves in straightforward and mundane ways. I cannot see how it might be otherwise. Although there are alternate views to this question of design, I personally see no difficulty in recognizing and celebrating the purposeless of all things. I believe that nature’s beauty is enhanced when one submits to the fact that it is unplanned and unimagined. This conclusion then serves as a call to the humanities to give meaning and substance to all things.

8 thoughts on “Nature revealed

  1. This wasn’t the one in mind, but better for the way your thinking intersects with what I am pondering. I do love this post, even the challenge to us in the humanities! There might come a point when the writing I am doing will be finished, and then I will have to share some of it with you so you may see how your blog has influenced it. Thank you.

    • Truly Leanne every time you make a comment like that I feel I’ve undergone one of your professional critique sessions! I do need a shot-in-the-arm every once in a while. Thanks much. Everyone seems to have their photographic niche – know what I mean? Although I don’t think I could put into words the ‘feel’ of your photos – I know a Leanne Cole image when I see it. I think I’m continuing to look for my niche. Your comments serve to perhaps point me in the right direction. D

  2. No blind watchmaker mention. I’m sure you could comment on this subject for days. I wouldn’t mind. It would be an enjoyable read.

    • Ha! When I sit down to write a post I’m not always sure where it’ll take me. This one is a case in point. I didn’t initially intend to take the Dawkinsonian turn … it just happened. I’m a bit hesitant about taking posts in this direction – you never know who you might offend. Glad you appreciated the ideas. Would love to post more on the subject but, once again, afraid of alienating some large fraction of the blogosphere. I didn’t have you read Dawkins … did I? Anyway, glad you are among the enlightened (I knew you would be). D

    • Thanks unsouthernbelle for your supportive view. I worry, sometimes, about posts such as this. When I sit to compose a post – sometimes it ends up addressing something that I never intended to discuss. Such was the way this one went. I was ready to talk about design in nature – and it kinda got out of hand! I know there are lots of folks out there who won’t agree with my conclusions – I’m glad that, at least, you did! Thanks much. D

  3. The archives are revealing wondrous secrets. Within the soul of this scientist lives that of a poet. Lovely mystical scene.

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