On a Beach Walk: #62 (Food)

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Looking across the water is a reminder that life lives below surface. A large variety of fish, shrimp, clams, oysters, scallops, and more. Of course the listed ones are commonly available food for us to eat. So I wonder, “What’s for dinner?”

Is an ongoing question for you? We ask it, but also laugh about this seemingly eternal question. Although our time at the beach is away from the normal routine of home, “What’s for dinner?” ever looms in our midst. So, why not, I’ll think about food today.

All of us have a variety of likes and dislikes. Some of us are risk takers when it comes to trying different foods, others have a limited menu of preferences. So food: What is it? Why do we need it? When it comes to food, what do living things have in common with each other?

Food – that basic need for all life forms. All the organisms of the sea and the beach need food for the same reasons as people – for nourishment – for the nutrients that either provide energy, act as a building block, or assists in a process. Yes – that’s what carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals are all about.

Food – think of all the cookbooks available – let alone online resources of recipes – all forming a collective of bountiful offerings of culinary delights. Yet, most people limit themselves to a rotation of less than 20 recipes.

Food – Think of the times of our settlers when most ingredients were grown in their own gardens or by other locals. The farmer’s markets of today carry on the tradition of locally grown products, which also seems to carry a greater importance outside North America.

I think of today’s large grocery stores – endless aisles of canned and packaged products that are complete with preservatives, fat, sodium , sugar, and more. Therefore, much of today’s cooking is an act of combining various boxes and cans into a final product.

On the other hand, the food industry today provides fresh fruits and vegetables from throughout the world – a luxury less available during my youth – oranges from South Africa – grapes from Chile – after all, bananas are not grown everywhere.

I think of a time when families ate an evening meal together – and even a more grand meal on Sunday afternoon – whereas today our lives are more on-the-run causing us to yield our food preferences to frozen and packaged products or a wide variety of fast-food establishments.

Today’s life offers many restaurants of a variety of styles and prices without a messy kitchen – well, at least not ours. I find it interesting how cuisines differ not only from country to country, but also from region to region within a country. The fried plate of everything and anything is more common in the US South and the US North. The dishes of northern Italy are different from those of the south.

I think of the abundance of natural food in nature – the corn with its husk but without a label because corn is corn. Let us not forget that corn is a plant – a living thing that also needs food just like we do and for the same reasons. Green plants make their own food by photosynthesis because they can’t catch it or kill it. Animals hunt for food because (and unlike the green plants) they can’t make their own. Whether an organism catches food or makes its own, food’s end result is the same.

Light from the sun is the initial energy source driving photosynthesis, but there are also organisms living in the darkness of the deep sea that can make their own food without the presence of light – but they use the sulfur gases venting into the water from Earth’s core as the energy driving their food production process. Nature’s design is so grand.

It seems food is more complex than many realize, but thinking about food makes me hungry. Besides, it’s lunchtime.  But for now , I continue moving toward the condo because walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On Containers

 

Why is the astronaut in a space suit?

I always enjoyed asking that question to biology students. Knowing the knew the answer is one thing, but the question and the crafted discussion was a setup of what was to come. After all, I wanted to expand their view of the situation and use the discussion throughout the entire unit (3 chapters).

The space suit serves as a barrier between two environments – one suitable for the human body, and the other quite harsh – therefore, the space suit is a container similar to a can of vegetables on the grocery self.

The body within the space suit is also a container with a barrier separating different environments on each side of the barrier. Within the human body are several cavities – open spaces that are sealed spaces for organs. For instance, the chest cavity is sealed with a protective barrier to play an important role in inhaling and exhaling. Yes, another container within a container that is inside the protective space suit.

Tissues and organs (composed of tissues) are not only within the cavities, but throughout the body. Tissues are composed of two or more different types of cells working together in a common function. Surprise, surprise, surprise – cells are also containers because each cell has a protective barrier (cell membrane) separating two environments. It is through these membranes that essential materials pass through to reach their site of need for processing. Through these same membranes, the waste removal process occurs.

Cells contain individual parts with specialized functions. Are you surprised to know that many of these parts are covered with protective barriers separating two distinct environments?

Substances continually pass in and out of the cell through the membrane. Some of these movements occur naturally without the cell expending energy. On the other hand, some movements require energy to occur.

Cells are the reason we take in oxygen from the atmosphere and return carbon dioxide. Cells are the reason we eat. Cells are the reason the heart pumps blood throughout the body to transport nutrients and carry away wastes. Cells are the reason we go to the bathroom. Cells are the reason all vital activities exist.

Cells have to survive in order to reproduce. Cells require food and eliminate wastes. Cells must interact with their surrounding environment. Cells require amino acids to produce proteins. Cells contain DNA to serve as the code of life not only for itself, but for the organism as a whole. As Bruce Lipton (scientist) states, “In reality, a cell is a biological mini-me compared to the human body. A cell has every biological system that you have.” …. now, that is quite the container.

On the Most Beautiful Species

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Sunrise, sunsets, rock formations, the star-filled sky, a brilliant moon, a blooming meadow is a valley surrounded by mountains, and much more … Natural beauty is all around us.

Beauty within the living world is easy to find – rainforests, coral reefs, grasslands, deserts, marshes, under the water’s surface, in a cave, around the house, in the soil, many more places – let alone in the microscopic world.

Because beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, some find their ultimate beauty in flowers ranging from exotic orchids to a wide variety of houseplants. Others find the ultimate biological beauty in the wild animals of Africa, in the colorful fishes in the warm ocean waters, or in our domestic pets. Bloggers as Bulldog, Cathy, Cindy, Nia, Robin, Suzanne, and many more wonderfully capture this beauty.

Yet, at least to me, the most beautiful species is hidden among us – masked in selfishness, horror, ego, and deceit – thus I present three reasons supporting my surprise nomination of the most beautiful biological species – Homo sapiens – humans.

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Do you think the markings on every peregrine falcon are exactly the same?

Variation within a species is an important aspect of evolutionary success. Look at the spectrum of variations with some external human traits as skin color, hair color, – let alone ranges of straight to curly plus the hairstyle of individual choice – Add eye color, height, body shape, lips, then toss in personalities and abilities – there’s something for everybody, thus humans display beauty in so many ways!

Most, if not all, organisms have variations. the beautiful cheetahs don’t have many variations, thus one of the reasons they are in biological trouble. One may think all the leaves on a certain type of tree are the some, but they aren’t. One may think all the spots on the underbelly of a specific bird are the same and in the exact same pattern, position, and number – but they probably aren’t. Variation within a species is important, and the range within humans is extraordinary.

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The second aspect of the most beautiful species is the human brain, which allows a great range of communication, individuality, creativity, problem solving, culture, learning, and more. While we can easily criticize the choice many make from the result of having the most complex neural masses in the biological community, humans demonstrates the greatest range of creativity – and much of it relates to human ability to problem solve.

Think about the questions and decisions one encounters every day. Consider all the material items we contact every minute of every day in every year – and all these manufactured products have a story centered around problem solving.

Think about all the ways we communicate – facial expressions, mathematical, written, visual, musical, and oral – let alone in so many languages. Look at all the styles in the visual arts – after all, the visual arts are communicating, thus touching us in different ways.

The arts with all its styles and media are a story in itself. The painting world alone is huge. Toss in music, literature, pottery, sculptures, jewelry, photography, and many others – no wonder I proclaim the arts as the ultimate expression of human creativity.

In order to accomplish what we can, humans must be capable of learning – and the capacity for the human brain to learn is overwhelming – then alone the ability to apply the learning to a problem solving and/or creative situation. Human learning is a story in itself, yet as a species, I wonder if there are limits to learning besides the self-imposed and the impaired.

Although some human behavior is instinctive, human learn behaviors (good and bad), and have the ability to learn new ones (good and bad) – and each of us are a collection of behaviors that gives us our own individuality. Thus, one of the challenges of being human is the ability to deal with so many personalities.

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There is no question that today’s world has it share of human-created issues that are based in culture – but culture is the last reason for humans being the most beautiful biological species. Culture is a set of shared, learned behaviors, and beliefs that are passed on from one generation to the next. (Thanks BSCS) (A culture post from the aFa archives)  There are many aspects to culture: dress, dance, food, language, art, religion, behaviors, holidays – well, only to name a few.

While leading a training session in Boston years ago, I encountered a participant who embraced her heritage with her clothes. The colors, the patterns, and the design were so stunning, each day I looked forward in anticipation to seeing her attire. What beauty! Whether from someone sharing photos from their travels or daily surroundings, I see similar beauty through images on blogs as with the lady in Boston.

Given the variations within the humans species, the human brain, and human culture, there is no doubt that humans are the most beautiful species on this planet. Yes, it depends how one defines beauty – let alone their perspective. Yes, variation within a species is common throughout the biological world. Yes, other organisms communicate, problem solve, and have societies – but no other organism does it to the level of humans … and yes, we have a tendency to deny our own good because of the negatives in today’s world.