Sunday, February 12, 2012

bioluminescence: to behold and not held

{His scientific compositions had, indeed, much in common with artistic creations which do not imitate actuality but transcend it and illuminate reality} excerpt from The Great Influenza by J.M. Barry about Oswald Avery of the Rockefeller Institute.

I named this blog bioluminescence not because I know anything about the biological mechanisms of luminescence. To me, bioluminescence implied shedding light on matters biological. The truth is, I hardly ever write about biology here, so the name conjures up fireflies instead. Recently, I posted a picture of synchronous fireflies lighting miraculously in unison. My blog has gotten more hits via that picture than any word I have ever written.

I want to tell you two stories now. One about fireflies and the other about seeing the light. First the fireflies. Like millions of little girls, I collected fireflies in jars at dusk. My best friend had a sprawling back lawn that led into an enchanted deciduous woods. I still remember those dreamy blue dusks and seeing the first fly introduce the evening with its fleeting signal. “Oh, did you see that?” We were freshly excited each time. Its a cliche to call it magical, but it was. They were the only bugs we weren’t disgusted by. One night as we inspected our jar of riches, we held a few individuals on our fingertips. Then my friend realized that they pooped on her fingers. We promptly let them all go, shaking the open jar in a grossed out fury. We never collected fireflies again much after that. But I went on worshipping them for their transcendental gift. My childhood best friend, who I met when I was 3 or 4 years old, is still my dear friend. The other day she sent me a link to the image above, which was taken by Japanese photographer Tsuneaki Hiramatsu using time-lapse photography to show fields full of firefly light on hazy summer nights in Okayama Prefecture, Japan.

The other story is less lovely. I am having some problems lately with my science. Its dying. I can feel it slipping away. Its too painful to explain in more detail. You see, I will always write about the light and not about the luciferase. I don’t think I care how a firefly lights. I just want to enjoy its tiny beam for a moment. In this particular case, ignorance is truly harmless. This is not to say that I don’t love biology and understand that knowledge can enhance appreciation. It’s that I respect the practice of science enough not to litter it with my unscientific mind. My mind is somewhere else, its in the woods sitting on fallen leaves, waiting desperately for the night.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ceci n’est pas blog post

I love that you hated it, that means it was good.

There are too many people in the world, some have to be losers.