Monday, 5 November 2012

A blog entry that lives up to the blog's name for once

Today's plan is to interview a "home-edded" teen about home ed.  This may not go according to plan because it's often difficult for people to get here, and since the kind of education in which i'm involved is child-centred, children may choose not to come.  Nonetheless, i hope it happens.  Hence the following link:

...may not exist.

I have a back-up plan involving rendering 3-D images of Greek letters and using them to introduce the Greek alphabet.  That plan, however, seems to be doomed too because right now i am wrestling with the rendering program unsuccessfully.  So, half in the spirit of Karen Carpenter, when the smallest of dreams won't come true, i have scaled down my plans to:  go to Iceland and buy some veggie sausages.

It's rapidly being borne in upon me that both factions in the religious war are, to quote Wolfgang Pauli, "not even wrong".  The level of the debate is strangely fixated on points argued about and disposed of in previous centuries rather than more recent concerns, and i'm trying to work out why.  It may be that they are simply unaware of the issues, or that they have themselves decided that the ensuing discussion was mere sophistry.  However, i need to address this i think.

Another thing i need to address is the fact that i haven't revised botanical terms for this afternoon's session yet.  Little does she know it, and in fact she has no way of finding out because i won't be publishing this until the video is uploaded, but a certain GS is expected to tell us all about the names of leaf shapes when she comes.  In the meantime, i'll post some pretty pictures with dubious intellectual property issues about them (they're actually not that pretty):

These illustrate the shape of leaves and are as follows:
1. Rounded
2. Reniform (like a kidney)
3. Cordiform (heart-shaped)
4. Elliptic
5. Ovate
6. Obovate
7. Lanceolate
8. Acicular
9. Linear
10. Sagittate ("arrowy")
11. Spathulate ("spoony")
12. Hastate ("speary")
13. Triangular.
14. Rhomboid.

Palmate and pinnate leaves.  Palmate leaves look like palms, i.e. hands, and pinnate like feathers (pinna - feather).  The extent to which they're divided is described in the same way in both cases:
1. Shallowly.
2. Deeply.
3. Parted.
4. Divided.
 Leaves can also be completely divided, in which case each mini-leaf is called a "leaflet".  The arrangements illustrated here are:
1. One pair of leaflets with the rest modified as tendrils - most plant organs are in fact modified forms of a few types, such as stems, leaves, roots and branches.
2. Trifoliate.
3. Digitate ("fingery").
4. Imparipinnate.
5. Paripinnate.
6. Bipinnate.
7. Pinnate with interjected leaflets.

Leaf positions:

1. Alternate.
2. Opposite (arranged in two ranks in this case).
3. Whorl.
Leaf attachments:

1. Petiolate with stipules.
2. Sessile.
3. Clasping (amplexicaul).
4. Sheathed.

Two issues emerge here.  One is, why should anyone care?  I feel a certain nerdy attachment to the names but does it add anything to one's real knowledge.  I would answer that by saying that if you can name something, you can pluck it out of the blurring, buzzing confusion and make sense of it.  One reason it might be important is that the almost universally highly toxic Ranunculaceae  - the buttercup family - have almost universally deeply divided leaves, so if you come across an unwell child or member of another animal species near some plants with finely divided leaves, you are more likely to know what's wrong.  Also, in that case toxic is determined as usual by dosage, so a smaller dosage means a marked and useful physiological effect.

The other issue is that this is a pretty good illustration of what i said in this video: that if you know Latin and Greek you will already be aware that, for example, "sagittate" has something to do with arrows, and say if someone asks you, "are the leaves sagittate?" and you haven't already heard that word in a botanical context, you will probably guess what they mean.

This raises the interesting question of how much learning is linguistic.  Clearly you can't learn to drive or use a spokeshave using purely linguistic skills, but other things you can because a lot of stuff is simply naming of parts, and when you can name parts, you get to draw an outline around a particular pattern in the Universe which may or may not be helpful. I hope it is in this case.

Right, now i'm off down Iceland to get some sausages, so be good (see, i can occasionally make puns in French even if i hate the language!)