In which nature imitates science

On the walk from my house to Russia Dock Woodlands, you have to pass by a particular hedgerow. Like all good hedgerows, it’s thick and impenetrable and rustling with unseen bird life. And it produces lots of bright-red berries, which frequently fall off and spill all over the pavement.

A hedgerow, yesterday

Maybe I’ve just got too much science on the brain, but whenever the sunlight is at a particular angle, especially in the winter when it is especially low in the sky, there is something about the shadows cast by the berries onto the rough cement that reminds me of images of molecules obtained by Atomic Force Microscopy.

Every year I look out for the “AFM berries” and smile to myself.

Well, no white Christmas for us here in Rotherhithe this year, just lashings of rain and gusting wind, the sort that blows down fences and rips tiles off the roof. But Richard, Joshua and I are safe indoors with our beautiful tree, plenty of food and drink and candles lit against the early darkness.

Happy Christmas to all.

About Jennifer Rohn

Scientist, novelist, rock chick
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2 Responses to In which nature imitates science

  1. cromercrox says:

    Many years when the world was young (OK, it was 1983) I had an undergraduate vacation studentship at the Natural History Museum. I worked in the Department of Palaeontology, in the Fossil Fish Section, where my task was to re-order the collection of British pteraspid fishes according to a new classification scheme. These extinct, jawless fishes had distinctive head-shields, the shapes of which were often diagnostic. After two weeks of this, I was able to look at vaguely pteraspid-head-shield-shaped puddles, imperfections in the pavement, clouds, shadows and so on, and identify them to species.

  2. Nice AFM pics!

    When I was a postdoc at Berkeley I worked on bacterial chemotaxis. We used to make movies of bacteria swimming showing how they move in straight lines interrupted by tumbles when they move off in another direction; the new direction can be biased by the presence of attractants or repellents.
    In the summer in shallow parts of rivers I often seen shoals of tiny fish which seem to be able to tumble and swim away very quickly – this reminds me of my chemotaxis days.

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