NCFP Science Friday: Leaf, Rust, and Yeast

lien leaf (Image: Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)
Alien leaf (Image: Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)

First a tree story,here.

Canada’s new banknotes show wrong maple leaf

IS THERE a botanist in the house? Canada’s new $20, $50 and $100 bills appear to have the wrong maple leaf on them.

Instead of a sugar maple leaf, one of the nation’s best known symbols, the bills feature the Norway maple, a native of Europe that is so invasive in North America that some US states have banned its sale and importation.

The leaf shown on the banknotes has five major lobes, unlike any maple tree native to Canada, while the sugar maple has just three lobes, says Julian Starr, a botanist at the University of Ottawa.

The Bank of Canada says there is no error. Since no maple is native to the whole of Canada, the designers chose a “stylised blend” of leaves to avoid regional bias, says Julie Girard, spokeswoman for the bank. “This way it’s representative of all of Canada,” she says, adding that the bank even consulted a tree specialist to avoid species bias.

I also thought that this story was interesting on the possible use of rust in solar energy.
To see the rest you have to subscribe or get a copy at your library..

MOST engineers would have been horrified to find even a little bit of rust on their electrodes. But Kenneth Hardee and Allen Bard had made theirs entirely of the stuff. In their pursuit of cheap solar power, the pair had been trying to coax a current out of the cheapest material they could find. And they succeeded: exposed to visible light, it produced a small but decent current.

That happened in 1975, just as silicon was becoming the next big thing. Silicon’s greater efficiency made it the mainstay of photovoltaic solar cells, and it has stayed at the top of the market ever since. Rust simply didn’t have the electrical properties to compete. The small breakthrough at the University of Texas at Austin fell by the wayside and the only time anyone thought about rust, if they thought of it at all, was when they wanted to get rid of …

And finally. because we had discussed coevolution of plants and humans earlier today (and it is Friday night!) the article “The 10,000-year bender: Why humans love a tipple” is interesting, as well, although also requiring a subscription or a library.

EVEN if you are teetotal, you cannot deny that humans, as a species, like to drink. We consume wine, beer, cider, spirits… in fact, the fermented product of almost anything we can turn to alcohol. Our fondness for this toxic substance, the cause of so much trouble, is something of a mystery. Maybe it is enough to say that we drink because it makes us feel good. But I think that to understand our love of alcohol you need a bigger, more evolutionary, explanation.

The story of alcohol is one of an intimate relationship between humans and yeasts, an affair that began millions of years ago and is still playing out today. We like to cast ourselves as the star of this drama, but in fact yeasts are the unsung lead character. Ours is a symbiotic connection – a mutually beneficial partnership. It is also one in which the balance …

1 thought on “NCFP Science Friday: Leaf, Rust, and Yeast”

  1. Coincidentally, a Feb. 14 essay in the Montreal Gazette states that

    “…a recent survey by the Association of Canadian Studies showed two-thirds of Quebecers consider the Maple Leaf (or l’Unifolié in French) to be either a source of personal or collective pride, or both. … In the rest of Canada, the figure of satisfaction with regard to our red-and-white banner reaches an astonishing 90 per cent.”

    That’s the traditional three-lobed sugar maple leaf….

    And FWIW, when I was a teenager, my grandparents, both of whom had immigrated from Canada, brought me a gift that they had purchased in Alberta: a very nice leather belt embossed with maple leaves. They said they would be proud to know that their American grandson would be wearing the symbol of their native country. Except that the leaves weren’t maple — they were marijuana. I loved that belt and wore it until it wore out.


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