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“April showers bring May flowers.” So April’s been getting the credit all these years. Or maybe, just maybe, it was the dinosaurs!
The Dinosaur Herbivores
There are basically two kinds of plants, gymnosperms and angiosperms. All flowers – including May flowers - are angiosperms, and so are grains, grasses, cereals, sedges, fruits, vegetables, palms, oaks, hickories, almost every berry, etc. Today angiosperms dominate the planet. However, once upon a time, gymnosperms - like conifers and ferns - were king.
Then 140 million years ago, everything started to change. During the Jurassic, all the major herbivores were long-necked, tree-browsing dinosaurs (Brontosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus, etc.). By the Cretaceous, almost all of those tree-browsers were extinct. In the Cretaceous, the major herbivores were low-browsing ground-feeders.
The Dino-Flower Theory
Robert T. Bakker in his famous book The Dinosaur Heresies postulated that this new dominant ground-browsing herbivore created an flower-favorable environment. A gymnosperm-dominated woodland would provide few available niches for early flowering plants to occupy. But if a herd of hungry Triceratops mowed down the ground cover, the net effect would reset all the ground cover back to square one. Ground cover would have to grow from scratch, similar to after a forest fire. Angiosperms with their faster growth and maturity rates would recover first and dominate the newly available niches. Flowering plants flourished. May flowers rule!
But Bakker has his critics too. For example, angiosperms first flourished close to the equator. Dinosaurs only sparsely populated this region, which would seem to diminish the effect of their appetites. Furthermore, angiosperms didn’t dominate the plant world until the Late Cretaceous, when dinosaur numbers already were starting to dwindle. Others believe that environmental factors may have aided angiosperms more than dinosaur herbivores. The Mid-Cretaceous was a period of increased volcanism and ocean floor production. Did increased temperature, CO2, and sea levels favor angiosperms over gymnosperms? Or did the rise of the pollinator insects (wasps, bees, and moths) during the Mid-Cretaceous give angiosperms their decisive advantage?
In any case, the world the dinosaurs left behind was angiosperm-supreme. The graves of dinosaurs were festooned with flowers.
Bakker, Robert T. The Dinosaur Heresies: New Theories Unlocking the Mystery of the Dinosaurs and their Extinction. New York: William Morrow, 1986.
Barrett, P.M. and Willis, K.J. Did dinosaurs invent flowers? Dinosaur-angiosperm coevolution revisited. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 76 (2001), 411-447.
Willis, K.J. and McElwain, J.C. The Evolution of Plants. New York: Oxford UP, 2002
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Diamonds are forever? But historically speaking, emeralds are the most prestigious gems.
In ancient history, Egypt was the only major source for emeralds. According to legend, Cleopatra once greeted Caesar from atop a pile of emeralds. Egyptian emeralds and gold funded Roman coffers. In the sixth century Emperor Justinian decreed that only aristocracy could wear emeralds. Napoleon favored emeralds because of its connection to ancient imperial power.
Why does history favor emeralds over diamonds? Diamonds require facets for their brilliance, and faceting technology wasn’t developed until the late 15th century. Before the art of faceting, diamonds were secondary, emeralds were king!
Emeralds don’t need complex faceting. Emeralds don’t sparkle – they shine! They look wet. That’s why emeralds are usually made with a “table cut” – a long flat surface – instead of with many facets.
The emerald’s crystal structure creates that natural luster. Emeralds naturally have a long hexagonal crystal. The crystal shape is due to the fact that an emerald is a beryl mineral (beryllium aluminum cyclosilicate).
Pure beryls are naturally white and called goshenite. But when the beryl contains chromium, then the beryl turns green. An emerald is born! Incidentally, aquamarine is a beryl too – or if you rather – just an emerald with an iron contamination.
That chromium combines with beryllium at all is a freak occurrence in nature. Chromium occurs on the ocean floor. Beryls are born in the granite hearts of mountains. When two continents collide, the ocean floor is pushed under a continent (subduction). When the ocean rock melts, the chromium mixes into the rising fluid and finds its way into the growing beryl crystals.
Author and jeweler Aja Raden writes that beryllium and chromium are “the Romeo and Juliet of elements” because under “no normal circumstances should these rare substances ever find each other.” Raden’s book "Stoned" is a must-read for gem enthusiasts and history buffs.
Emeralds are filled with inclusions, which are the stone's jardin – or garden. Using a 10x loupe, the inclusions look like a jungle or coral reef. Each jardin can be as unique as a snowflake.
But beware! Often, emeralds are treated with oils and fillers. That’s why you should never wash your emeralds in an ultrasonic cleaner.
Today Colombia dominates emerald production. Scattered lesser sources for emeralds exist, even in the United States. In fact, North America’s largest emerald was discovered in North Carolina in 2009. Starting at an impressive 310 carats, it was cut down to about 65 carats and named “The Carolina Emperor.”
The Green Envy
Cone cells in the human eye see red, blue and green. But all cone cells are sensitive to light wavelengths of 510 nanometers, i.e. the eye is most receptive to green! It’s the color of life, especially as life renews in spring. Appropriately, May’s birthstone is the emerald. Emeralds are prestigious, but spring…that’s priceless.
Finlay, Victoria. Jewels: A Secret History. New York: Ballantine, 2006. Print.
Raden, Aja. Stoned: Jewelry, Obsession, and How Desire Shapes the World. New York: HarperCollins, 2015. Print
Gast, Phil. "North Carolina emerald: Big, green and very rare." CNN.com. 1 September 2010. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/08/31/north.carolina.emerald/ (Accessed March 27, 2016)
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[This article first published on the blog of Expedite Home Loans]
As of last year, Millennials are the largest population block in America. The Pew Research Center defines Millennials as those Americans born from 1981 to 1997. Instead of being giddy about this juggernaut of consumers, industry analysts seem impatient and disappointed. “In the case of real estate, the millennial buying frenzy was already supposed to have kicked off – but it’s now on hold for a variety of reasons,” said Jeff Desjardins of Visual Capitalist.
What does he mean by “supposed to have kicked off”? As reported by the NAR this year, Millennials comprise the largest share of home buyers – and have been for the past four years! So why the seemingly weary-from-waiting attitude from market analysts?
Because of analysts’ great expectations. Millennials outnumber the vaunted numbers of the Baby Boomers. Analysts were expecting a tsunami and are getting only a tidal change.
But credit where credit is due. The Millennials have had to surmount more roadblocks to homeownership than any generation of Americans this side of World War II! The challenges include:
Despite this, experts still are predicting an incredible year of Millennial home buying in 2017. For starters, building permits for new construction have been topping a million per year since 2014 – the best numbers since 2007 and double the building permits of 2009! Also, Millennials are exploring alternatives, creating the so-called “Tiny House Movement.”
The fact that Millennials make up the greatest share of home buyers – for the fourth year in a row - says it all. Obviously, Millennials are surmounting their challenges! Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Remember these wise words. “Just because you took longer doesn’t mean you failed.”
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In an episode of “The Office” – entitled “Diversity Day” (Season 1, Ep. 2) – the character Jim is unable to close a very important sale because of his boss Michael Scott’s obnoxious handling of a sensitivity seminar. Jim loses his sale…to his office rival Dwight! It’s an awful defeat for Jim. But by the end of the working day, Pam (with whom Jim is in love) falls asleep on his shoulder. Jim is spellbound. Jim concludes to the camera that it was “not a bad day.”
In an episode of “Seinfeld” – entitled “The Burning” (Season 9, Ep. 16) – George manages to increase his popularity at his workplace by leaving right after he scores a funny joke or witticism. Jerry Seinfeld remarks that this is the trick of successful comedians – to leave when you’re at a high point.
What does this have to do with bad days and colonoscopies? They all used the peak-end rule of psychology.
The Peak-End Rule
There is a psychological rule about how we summarize an experience – it’s called the “peak-end” rule. Psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Barbara Fredrickson discovered it. Basically it says that how we remember an experience boils down to two criteria: how the experience feels at its peak (at its best or worst), and how the experience ended.
Barry Schwartz – author of the fantastic book “The Paradox of Choice” - cites a lab study where participants were asked to listen to two terribly loud noises. The first noise was awful, but lasted only 8 seconds. The second noise was the same as the first and also lasted 8 seconds…but it was followed by another 8 seconds of unpleasant noise that wasn’t as loud.
The vast majority of the participants chose the second noise – despite the fact that it was unpleasant as the first, and also twice as long (16 seconds vs. 8 seconds).
How does that make sense? They’re both terrible to hear and the second noise was twice as long. But the participants preferred the second noise because of the “peak-end” rule. Both the first and second noise had the same “peak” of awfulness…but the second noise ended with a noise that wasn’t nearly as bad. Therefore, the second noise was considered better, relatively speaking.
A Not-So-Bad Colonoscopy
Daniel Kahneman, Joel Katz, and Donald Redelmeier performed another lab study - with colonoscopies. A colonoscopy is a notoriously unpleasant experience. In the described study, two groups were given a colonoscopy. One group’s procedure was standard. The second group’s procedure was different.
In the second group, after the colonoscopy was finished, the scope was left inside – unmoving – for 20 additional seconds. Unmoving, the probe was not as unpleasant as a moving probe. The second group rated their experience slightly better than the first group did.
Both groups had the same bad “peak,” but the second group had a milder ending.
Why We Need Fairytale Endings and Dessert
My Dad once told me, “Leave the party while you’re still having a good time.”
The peak-end rule is basically telling us that it doesn’t matter how something starts, it’s the ending that is more important.
It’s important to remember that our brains aren’t rational computers, but rather our brains are slimy bags of instincts. The great thing about Schwartz’s book “The Paradox of Choice” is that he shows his readers more of these irrational instincts like the peak-end rule, and then Schwartz gives us rational strategies to optimize our happiness by combating these instincts.
Jim’s bad day was "not bad” after Pam slept on his shoulder. George trained himself to leave someone’s company while he was ahead. My Dad says to leave the party while you’re still having a good time. If you squeeze an orange too hard, the juice turns bitter.
Keep in mind the happy ending. Having a bad day? Put something you love at the end of the day. A hot bath. A basket of chicken wings. A bowl of ice cream. Watch a movie with someone you care about or read a beautiful story to your children before they go to bed.
And as you read to your kids, note that the story has a happy ending. We love happy endings. It’s our instinct. It’s called the peak-end rule.
Kahneman, Daniel; Fredrickson, Barbara L.; Schreiber, Charles A.; Redelmeier, Donald A. (1993). "When More Pain Is Preferred to Less: Adding a Better End". Psychological Science. 4 (6): 401–405.
Redelmeier, Donald A; Katz, Joel; Kahneman, Daniel (2003). "Memories of colonoscopy: a randomized trial". Pain. 104 (1-2): 187–194.
Schwartz, Barry. The Paradox of Choice - Why More Is Less. New York: Harper Perennial, 2004.
Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.