Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Nature on the Stove; the Sequel

 I got hooked on staring into a saucepan again this morning.  As usual, I saw something new.  Or, perhaps something old seen in a new way.  I was cooking oatmeal when I notice bubbles on the rim of the pan above the oatmeal.  While the heat coming from below was sufficient to boil the water, then keep boiling once the oatmeal was added, apparently the rim of the pan remained cold enough (not difficult in my inadequately heated house) to cause the vapor to condense before it left the scene.  This brought to mind the idea of micro-habitats, something I've discussed and photographed often on this blog.  When nature's little habitats are examined closely, on a scale smaller than human, we often discover radically different conditions of light, temperature and moisture in places only inches apart.  I assume that microorganisms split hairs even further and detect "climate variations" only microns apart.  Besides the evaporation and condensation apparent here, I also enjoyed how the foam around the edges of the pan resembled the foam associated with waves breaking at the seas shore.  That thought led to my looking deeper into the oatmeal itself at which point I was visualizing
what is often called "primordial ooze" or "primordial soup," the sort of habitat where life might have originated on Earth or elsewhere.  As I stared at the oatmeal I remember algae-laden hot springs seen in Yellowstone and Lassen Parks, among other places, and imagined the famous Miller-Urey experiment being done in nature rather than in the lab.  If I could control these stove-top experiences better, it seems like they'd have lots of potential for high school lab simulations.  I hope this doesn't cause anyone to lose interest in eating their oatmeal.  It's really good for you!

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