My blog is called "The Philipendium", covering topics in the natural sciences, language, geography, and education. In each article I seek to provide original insights that you won't find anywhere else. More than 50 fascinating articles have appeared so far. Below are links to the earliest stories.
Each autumn, the diligent cooks of North America face the burning question “Does the canned pumpkin I’m using actually contain pumpkin, or is it really just squash?” Find out the complete story of what makes a pumpkin a pumpkin, and what makes a squash a squash!
The English language has an amazingly diverse set of words related to the concepts of “black” and “white”. For example, the words "blanket", "melancholy", "leukemia", "albumen", and "wheat" can all be traced back to ancient words that meant either "black" or "white".
Australia is blessed with thousands of species of wildflowers, an incredible diversity that is matched by few places in the world. Here are a few of my favorite wildflowers from the Australian states of New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia.
The word “radiation” fills many of us with fear, while the word “light” is associated with cheer and hope. Yet, from a scientific standpoint, the two concepts are tightly intertwined. Furthermore, we are surrounded by more kinds of these things than most people realize.
The concepts of “hot” and “cold” are essential to the human experience and to our descriptions of the world around us. These words provide rich linguistic links, tying English into a web of connections with other European languages, and also to science and geography.
Georgia owes its diversity of beautiful wildflowers to its range of habitats, from the Appalachian Mountains, down through the hilly piedmont, and into the flat coastal plain and swampy coast. This set of 25 photos is a sampling of some of my favorite wildflowers from the state.
The “travel screen” from The Oregon Trail is an iconic image, instantly recognizable to millions of people. So where did this screen come from? How was it designed? Why does it look the way it does? The answer is a tale of hard work, cooperation, incremental design, and serendipity.
All of us have had first-hand experience with fire, and yet most of us would have a hard time describing what fire actually is. As a result, fire seems familiar and yet mysterious at the same time. Now at last you can read a clear explanation that completely unlocks the mystery!
Butterflies and ladybugs: Both of these cute insects have interesting compound names. Where did these words come from, and are the names equally interesting in other languages? Join this linguistic journey to explore the origins and connections of these words.
California has an amazing number of beautiful wildflower species, many of which are found nowhere else. This article features striking photographs illustrating twenty-five of the best examples. It is always a treat to find any of these flowers blooming in the wild!
What??? I can only carry 100 pounds of meat back to the wagon!?! Have you ever wondered how The Oregon Trail ended up with features such as these? If so, then this is the article to read, because I was there when those features were designed, and I am ready to share the secrets.
How many planets are there in the solar system? When I was a kid, the correct answer was “9”, but now the answer is “8”. How did we lose a planet? The answer provides a revealing look into how we organize knowledge into neat little packets – which sometimes have to be updated.
Starting with the word “apple”, we can weave a tangled web of surprising linguistic connections, across multiple languages and continents. Along the way we visit pineapples, pomegranates, potatoes, canteloupes, and oranges – each featuring a linguistic connection to apples.
We don’t normally think of green plants as having transportation needs, and therefore we seldom ponder how they solve those needs. But plants really do have a serious need to get from one place to another, and they have developed a wide range of ingenious solutions to do so.
These days the word “devolve” has gotten quite popular as a synonym for decline, degrade, descend, degenerate, or decay. Unfortunately, this new use of the word perpetuates a scientific fallacy, reflecting how we erroneously picture the process of evolution.