Friday, June 23, 2006

Beautiful Nectars of life

Have you ever observed that some plants produces nectar to attract insects while others produce venom to kill ? The question is, how do these plants find out that what they are going to make turns out as nectar and not venom ?

Suppose today some of the plants decide to perform pollination using cats. If previously plants were attracting butterflies and other insects using their nectar and aroma for pollination, they now need to prepare good cat food and fragrances for attracting the cats.

Suppose I'm the person trying to prepare good cat food to attract a cat. I get some fish, some milk, some flavour, mixes it and cooks it. Now if the cat eats it, I know i made a good cat food. Instead if I boiled my leather shoes, added some spice and gave it to the cat, it might reject it. And I know I made a bad cat food and I try something different the next time. For me preparing a cat food is as easy as going to the grocery shop and picking different things and trying it out.

In the case of plants they just cannot pick the fish, milk etc from a grocery shop. They have to prepare everything from scratch, right from preparing the sugar molecules to amino acids.. They have to do all the permutations and combinations and finally come up with the end product. And above all, they have no clue as to whether the cats might like it.

The example of plants attracting cats was given to shift the time of reference to the present. Now lets go back where we started. How did the plants start producing nectar ? What did they have to start with ? How did they know that what they are going to start with is indeed what they should be starting with ? In the beginning, how did they know that what they are going to produce is going to attract insects and not repel them ? How did the plants produce something when they even didn't know what it should be like ??

It might be sheer luck, or it might be trial and error, or it might be the evolutionary intelligence that you gained. Or again, it might be that someone told them to do so. But then, thats the beauty of life.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Dissecting the frog grip

The mystery of how frogs cling to surfaces - even if their feet are wet - may have been solved by scientists. The article can be found here BBC.

Ever gave a thought on the pain that went behind this finding ? I'm not talking about the scientists. For them it might have been just observing quiet a lot of frog toes under microscopes. They might have spent days and nights in their labs. But I'm not talking about them.

I'm talking about the frogs. Their toes cut off and taken out to be observed under some microscope. They might have waited inside some garbage can for their slow and agonizing death. All these for what ? For making some novel anti-slip devices that will eventually end up as good shoes that does not slip. Is it worth this suffering ?

This news took me back to my late school days when I had to dissect frogs for my biology lab. I still can hear the "cluck" sound when I cut the chest bones with a clipper. The frog was lying motionless nailed to the board, with its heart still beating. After the class, the frogs went into dust bins with their hearts still beating.

It didn't serve any purpose to me. I didn't learn anything new that I could not have learned with slides or pictures. And I ended up being an engineer who got nothing to do with frogs. All those pains went wasted.

Atleast I hope that the scientists gave them a quick death.