August 27th, 2007

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

The Joys of Generalists

Specialists are wonderful and I rely on them and their publications and websites to inform me about their specialties.

But...if you're a fish specialist stuck in a drought-stricken region with no streams...or a birder in midwinter up north...or a specialist in cycads far from anyplace cycads can grow....you're stuck until you can go somewhere else.  The generalist naturalist, on the other hand, always has *something* to rejoice in and learn about, no matter where she is. 

If there are no fish, maybe there are frogs.  If there are no frogs, maybe there are toads.  If there are no amphibians at all, maybe there are reptiles--snakes, lizards, tortoises.  If there are no reptiles, there may be birds or mammals.  There are sure to be invertebrates of some kind--insects, arachnids, sowbugs... and plants, if only a few. 

I thought of that looking out the window at a spiderweb.  The spiderweb is reflecting the most gorgeous flashes of blue and purple...why, I don't know.  What spider it is I don't know (yet), and soon the shade will be on it and it won't flash like that...in fact there's suddenly a cloud and the pretty flashes of color are gone.  But lots remains.  In every square yard (or meter) or even every square foot...there's so much to study, learn about, enjoy.

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

Challenge: the answer

First, thanks to all of you who joined in the challenge.   I especially appreciate those who took the extra time to explain their reasoning--what evidence they saw in the image that suggested a solution.

When I first saw the image that sparked all this, I myself thought it was suggestive of many different possibilities other than what it was in reality.   These included just about all that others have mentioned, plus a few from other realms.

Let's talk process first.   The original material here went through repeated cycles of melt and "freeze" (solidifying, anyway) with resultant separation of some of its components...it was not, in this case, an aqueous process, as the component with the lowest melting point was a fat, but I, too, have seen similar patterns in the topography near springs and seeps, both where they emerge to the surface from rocks and where they emerge underwater.  I've also seen it (though I can't pin down the year I saw this image) in an article on metallurgy, where two metals were melted and improperly cooled or reheated or something.  I've also seen similar surfaces in rock, especially--as the whole image shows--areas of concentric ring formation.

This solid was also improperly melted, cooled, and remelted, while not moving (it was an accident...) with this fascinating result.

And here it is:



A high cocoa content chocolate bar, left in the car by mistake for several weeks, and suffering repeated cycles of melting and cooling.  The cocoa butter and solids separated. 

And it still tasted good.

We have a clear winner in the "closest to right" category, and she will  be offered a choice of available prizes.  True, she used a clue I  hadn't meant to give, but fair's fair.   As for the other entrants--several of you did excellently and I've got to rummage around and see what's available.
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