Light! Right Between My Eyes!


One of our “Many” readers had a question on this plant growth at day vs night story..

See: “Plants Grow Faster at Night.”

So off I went to clear things up….OUCH!…I took a hit right between the eyes…BUT…I did not fall!

First, to get a “crash course” in photosynthesis follow these videos…

Crash Course Biology Photosynthesis # 8 Hank Green

A little childish, heavy on the chemistry but certainly not boring…


Photosynthesis: Light reaction, Calvin cycle, Electron Transport [3D Animation]

Great animation, narrator’s voice is sweet and could put you to sleep, but explained well. Don’t drown in the terms.


Photosynthesis Boseman Science by Paul Anderson

Best of the three, even though Mr. Anderson got in a couple of good shots….At one point he said, “The dark reaction [Calvin Cycle] is a silly term, because it only happens in the light.”


But plants grow FASTER in the DARK!

No, Mike…they only LOOK like they are growing faster…

“While rapid cell elongation causes plants to appear longer, it is not actually growth. The process is more comparable to stretching. Plant cells mostly expand upward when exposed to total darkness, because that is generally where they can access light; this process is known as geotropisim. Green plants require photosynthesis in order to experience actual growth; plants left in total darkness for an extended period of time eventually die.”


But “APPEAR LONGER” and “STRETCHING” is not “GROWING”?   Grrrrrrr.

“Plant growth is driven by photosynthetic carbon fixation during the day. Some photosynthate is accumulated, often as starch, to support nocturnal metabolism and growth at night. The rate of starch degradation in Arabidopsis leaves at night is essentially linear, and is such that almost all of the starch is used by dawn……..Thus, starch degradation is under circadian control to ensure that carbohydrate availability is maintained until the next anticipated dawn, and this control is necessary for maintaining plant productivity.”

My take on this last quote is this….Starch is used to make cellulose to make the cell wall to ELONGATE the cells which looks like “GROWING” but is actually reaching out in panic searching for the light.

I need to stop but I wanted to get this out to “Mad Scientist Juls”. This post is not pretty and is riddled with errors…but I did have fun getting schooled.





Lessons with Light


Some of you may have seen these pics before. Anyone can create cool and crazy images with just some lights and a camera.

Set the shutter speed for 10-15 seconds. (Some of you may have cameras that go even longer.) For such a long shutter speed, you need a small bright light and very dark background. Also the camera needs to be supported or attached to a tripod. Get your light ready, trigger the camera and draw! The rest is simple trial and error. You will be amazed how quickly you figure it out.

Don’t have a laser? No problem….

IMG_1015Just stand in front of the camera and draw with a bright light. Joseph posted this some time ago. He discovered that you simply use your opposite writing hand and write backwards.

Move the light(s) or move the camera…..Either way you can get some cool images…


(Consider your Christmas lights.)


So, do you have a camera, at least 1 small bright light and some darkness to play with?  If so, get out there and create!




Mouse in the House

A Strange “Tail” of “Nears & Fars”…

I caught a mouse the other morning, which is nothing unusual for this old farm house.  However what is unusual, is the mouse I caught……


I have always called these little critters,  “White Footed Deer Mice”

No worries, we get these little bandits all the time…..

Then I noticed….. NO TAIL!

Time to Google….Hmm….

Turns out that my term “white footed dear mouse” is actually two different species…The white footed mouse and the deer mouse. The way you tell them apart? Their TAILS! The deer mouse tail is longer and has two distinct colors above and below.

This mouse? I conclude that it’s a “white footed/deer mouse”. 🙂

What about the “Nears & Fars” you ask?   Read on…..


This mouse is clearly a mature male…..

As you can see, he has a penis(red) and two testes(blue). His anus is the black spot below the blue arrows.

(Yes, that black spot is emerging poo….Sudden panic tends to do that.)

Note the distance between the anus and the penis? That is a “far”, meaning the distance is relatively large….(An additional hint to declaring this specimen a male is the fact that he is…er…was certainly “mature”.)

A female would be a “near”, meaning her urethral/vaginal opening would be between the blue arrows and the black spot.

So, what about that missing tail? That remains a mystery….And the mouse is not talking.  😦

The area where the tail should be, was a slight bump that was normal flesh tone with a little hair…..Either he lost it at an early age or was born without it…..Either way, he did well tail-less…..At least up until he tasted the peanut butter…one…last…time…..SNAP!

 “The early bird may get the worm,

 but it’s the SECOND mouse that gets the peanut butter!”

 NOTE: Unfortunately, Animals were harmed in the making of this post.

Time Recorded in a Tree


So, How old WAS this tree? Let’s see if we can find out…


I used a very light stain to get the rings to show up. Dark stain covered everything. 😦



NOTE: In processing this photo…The arrows would shift. Please consider the dates as rough estimations…

This cut was made about 20 feet (6m) above the ground, so the the tree was actually OLDER than what we get. I started at 2013 and started counting to the left. The dark band that begins just to the left of the 2003 mark shows when hard times finally took a toll on the tree. There are actually 10 rings from the 2003 arrow to the bark on the right….Very little growth.

The yellow sun marks the time of the drought in 1988. Notice the rings are very narrow? (Click on picture to enlarge.)

The white hexagon would be around the the blizzard of 1978. Lots of water so lots of growth which would create wider rings.

Note the very wide rings at the storm cloud. History shows there was major flooding in 1959. The resulting ice flow in the Maumee river almost took out the local Damascus bridge.

Conclusion: This tree most likely was over 100 years old when it finally hit the ground. Again, it was doomed and needed to be taken down….but still….it was a witness to over a century of change.


Glowing Jello?

I first heard about this on the radio during Halloween and finally looked into it.


Believe it or not, this jello is “glowing”. The reason you can’t see the glow is because there is too much normal or visible light.




Now the science. Technically the jello is not glowing in the dark. The term is fluorescence.

Fluorescence means that the object is reflecting back visible light when it is hit with ultraviolet light (UV). It takes light we can’t see and gives back light we can see.

All florescent objects “glow” in the light. We just can’t see it because of all the visible light….(We get a little of the glowing effect which is why fluorescent orange and green is so easy to spot from a distance.) If we use a “black light” you really see what is going on. A black light gives off about the same amount of UV light as any light bulb but very little visible light so the effects of the UV light can be seen.

How do you get the jello to glow? Use tonic water instead of normal water.


Tonic water contains quinine which is a fluorescent molecule.


What are other uses of quinine? You may have heard about it being used as a treatment for malaria. Better meds are being used today, but for many years it was the only treatment for the disease.   History of Quinine

Quinine has a bitter taste and some that were taking quinine water would mix it with gin. A mixture that is still popular today.

Never tasted it? The jello I made tasted like it was mixed with old grapefruit juice that left an aftertaste. It is now out in the corn field where I doubt if any creature will consume it.

More tonic water treats…

I tried to freeze it for glowing ice cubes.

The tonic water did not freeze well. Still slushy even after over night.

By the way, I was also disappointed by the lack of glow with my jello. Why….

Perhaps the yellow jello is interfering with the bluish light. In the fridge now is a batch of BLUE TONIC JELLO.

Stand by….