About plants, the Fibonacci sequence and a prehistoric oddity ● So much water has been extracted from underground that it has changed the axis of rotation of the planet ● Insomniacs live less, but not because of lack of sleep
the Fibonacci sequencePhoto: Olivier Le Moal / Alamy / Alamy / Profimedia
About plants, the Fibonacci sequence and a prehistoric oddity
More than 91% of land plant species show the famous Fibonacci sequence in the distribution pattern of leaves, seeds, flower pattern or even the plant as a whole. That spiral in which each number represents the sum of the first two numbers that precede it (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 etc.) is also called the Golden Ratio, and the fact that it is extremely widespread in nature, determined many to consider it a fundamental feature of the laws that govern the universe.
Starting from this observation, several researchers from the University of Edinburgh tried to find out if the famous sequence is one that appeared with the first plants. For this, they went to the pattern of one of the oldest leafy plants, Asteroxylon mackiei, a species that originated in the Devonian, more than 400 million years ago.
The team was able to create a 3D computer image of the plant, and the model revealed a spiral distribution of the leaves, but nothing reminiscent of the Fibonacci sequence. What is even more interesting is that even distant relatives of the prehistoric species have retained this irregular pattern, as evidence that ancestral traits have survived to this day.
Another conclusion, even if it refers to a single species, is that the Fibonacci sequence is not a condition sine qua non. Rather, argue the author of the study in the journal Science, the mentioned sequence appeared in the morphological pattern of plants much later than previously thought. We could even say that, given its wide distribution today, the pattern provided by the Devonian species could be considered a bizarre.
Why did the Golden Ratio appear in the morphology of most modern plants? No one can say that for sure. One guess would be that the “Fibonacci” pattern would allow the leaves to receive as much solar energy as possible. But, as I said before, this is just a guess.
So much water was extracted from underground that the planet’s axis of rotation changed
Humans extracted so much water from underground that they managed to change the Earth’s axis of rotation by almost 80 centimeters, and this only in the period 1993-2010, according to a study conducted by NASA researchers and published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
An estimate by the authors of the study shows that, during the mentioned period alone, 2,150 gigatons of water were extracted, the equivalent of raising the level of the planetary oceans by 6 millimeters. The water was, in most cases, relocated, which led to the inclination of the axis to the east, as I mentioned, by about 80 centimeters.
The fact that the distribution and, implicitly, the redistribution of water on the planet can influence the axis of rotation was not discovered until 2016. Basically, we can say that it is a very little known and virtually unexplored field.
Computer simulations confirmed these changes. Initially, only the movements of glaciers and their melting were taken into account. Only when the previously mentioned 2,150 gigatons were added, the difference in the tilt of the axis of rotation by 80 centimeters could be observed.
The authors of the study argue that much of the water relocation has occurred in western North America and northwestern India. It should be emphasized, however, that the changes become significant only if drilling and water redistribution operations are carried out over long periods of time.
Normally, the axis of rotation oscillates by several meters annually, NASA researchers point out. In conclusion, with the extra 80 centimeters, we don’t have to worry that there will be any major effects, especially in terms of changing the seasons. Instead, they warn, they can influence the climate, along with rising sea and ocean levels. But, as I already mentioned, research in this regard is only at an early stage.
Insomniacs live less, but not because of lack of sleep
A mammoth study, carried out for no less than 37 years, brings at least an interesting conclusion related to the life span of people who either tend to be more active at night or suffer from insomnia.
Conducted by a group of Finnish researchers and recently published in the journal Chronobiology International, the study involved no less than 22,976 subjects. Of these, 42.9% declared themselves either “night owls” or “somewhat night owls”.
The point is that older studies had already shown that the average lifespan of those who habitually stay up until very late hours is shorter than that of people with normal sleep. They had also shown that lack of sleep leads to addictions, especially to tobacco and alcohol.
What the Finnish researchers’ study brings is the fact that it is not so much the lack of sleep that leads to the decrease in average life, but precisely the behaviors it generates, namely the excessive consumption of alcohol and nicotine. In short, from the establishment of the target group, in 1981, until 2018, the researchers carefully analyzed the behavior of each individual, as well as its correlations with normal or abnormal sleep hours.
During the study period, 8,728 subjects died. It turned out that the number of those who died, who had declared themselves “night birds”, was 9% higher than that of the morning ones. In addition, the difference was given precisely by those people who had addictions related to alcohol and nicotine. In conclusion, if you know you have sleep problems, try to pay attention first of all to the addictions they often come with.
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