Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fall Colors, Patterns in Nature, and Family Road Trip

Because our kids are homeschooling, we decided to drive from the National Association of Gifted Children meetings in North Carolina to New York. Our trip took us up through the beautiful Appalachians where the trees were still bursting out in color.

Because I didn't have to drive, I had a wonderful opportunity to just enjoy the scenery, with little I had to do or think about. We noticed that even within short distances there were dramatic differences in the combinations of colors. Sometimes there was a profusion of yellows a little bit of reds, while other times it looked as if many trees had lost their leaves, leaving mostly reds.

We don't know much about trees, so we don't know whether it was the diffrent species, the effects of altitude, or different microclimate effects.
It was nice to have find the time to have thoughts linger about the patterns in nature that surrounded us, and to not solve all the mysteries that confronted us.

When we got home, we found out that some researchers discovered that trees actually produce red pigment in their leaves in the fall. This was a bit surprising (and certainly different from what I remember being told in school) because it meant that rather than trees simply flaring up their bright colors as a purposeless accident, red was made on purpose, to protect the tree from increased radiation damage as it was undergoing its autumn winding down program (like sunscreen) and maybe scavenging some free radicals while it was at it. Still other theories speculate that it may help the tree resist drought.

Just another little interesting mystery to file away until next season.

The Chemistry of Autumn Colors
Seeing Red - The Why of Fall Colors

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  1. Sounds like a beautiful trip. It sure is interesting to learn with our children!

  2. Anonymous11:53 AM

    Your trip makes me think of an interesting book I just read, The Secret of the Universe, by a guy named Frasier Fitzgerald. He claims that a simple pattern repeats itself over and over again in our lives, in nature, in history, and in politics. The idea is that the pattern is just nature expressing growth and fluctuation with the minimum, or most efficient, effort required for growth over time. In the book he applies the pattern to a number of circumstances from its use in predicting 9/11 and periods of conflict, predicting price movements in financial markets, evaluating presidential politics, and using it to one's own benefit in everyday life. This book can show you how the same patterns you observed among the trees and in nature during your trip apply to your everyday life. The website for the book is