Prehistory still abounds in everyday life

| Aug 29, 2002

Prehistory still abounds in everyday life

In the course of a normal day, the word “fossil” may quite possibly never occur to you. Fossils are, however, crucial to many aspects of daily life. Coal, natural gas and oil (whose multifarious derivatives include many plastics), for instance, are not called “fossil ...

Isolation spells survival in the Sea of Okhotsk

| Aug 15, 2002

Isolation spells survival in the Sea of Okhotsk

In penguinlike tuxedoed masses, the Tyuleni Island murres were standing in murmuring hordes, crowding the rock ledges of their remote breeding colony off the east coast of Sakhalin in the Sea of Okhotsk. Their extinct, giant relative, the great auk (Pinguinus impennis), was the ...

A camphor by any other name

| Aug 1, 2002

A camphor by any other name

Growing among the the laurel-dominated evergreen forests of central and southern Japan is a tree with a host of names and a host of uses. This member of that dominant family (Lauraceae) goes by the name kusu-no-ki (tree that came from the south) in ...

Jul 28, 2002

Finding my Berings

Imagine traveling halfway around the world overland, building a ship, then being the first to navigate an unknown sea . . . only to have your sponsors disbelieve you. That was the fate of Cmdr. Vitus Jonassen Bering, the Danish seafarer whose name lives ...

Jul 28, 2002

Into the unknown Sea of Okhotsk

The Bering Sea, 1999. A wave-dashed shore ahead; leaden skies above. The way the rough sea was lifting and pitching and rolling our ship was not promising. I could just make out a bleak and deserted beach backed by lush knee-high vegetation, with a ...

Trees' wondrous ways of turning over a new leaf

| Jul 18, 2002

Trees' wondrous ways of turning over a new leaf

Now, at the height of summer, when the fresh green of the spring leaves has darkened, I will start this week’s column with a question: “Why is it that northern Japan’s Mongolian oak and Europe’s common beech retain their rustling brown leaves all winter, ...

The ants' workaday world is wherever you look

| Jun 20, 2002

The ants' workaday world is wherever you look

Despite the name, I didn’t see any ants in Antarctica, though it’s the only place I’ve been that I haven’t seen any. Everywhere else, from Alaska to Australia, from Norway to New Zealand, I have encountered them. Ants are an extraordinarily numerous and successful ...