Chemistry- What is It Good For?
I love chemistry but struggled in chemistry class in college. I mean, I did OK and still remember that H2O is water, but it was always a challenging class. If I were a muppet I would be “Beaker” not “Professor Honeydew.” It’s ironic that I then operated a wet chemistry analytical laboratory testing feeds and forages for about 8 years in another life.
When I was in college I had one of those chem classes that had like 300 people in it. Had three hours of class work each week which equated to 3 credits. Then there was the lab. I think I spent 100 hours a week on the lab part for a measly 1 credit.
I could never get those experiments to work the way the book said they should. The teacher-assistants all groaned when I would walk into their lab. I could hear them mutter that work-study didn’t pay them enough for this as they gathered up the fire extinguishers. I agreed with them. After I stood back and watched them put out my third chemical disaster, I definitely thought they should have gotten paid more.
That is why this week was so impressive. Without exhibiting any effort at all, the trees put on this brilliant display of chemical prowess. They began by draining the chlorophyll from their leaves and storing the sugars it produced down in their roots. This allows the native carotenoids in the leaves to finally display their glorious gold, orange and yellow colors. But some trees take it even further. They trap some sugar in the leaves and stir up a batch of anthocyanins that creates a burst of red colors that is spectacular. Incredible chemical process involving all sorts of complicated steps … and to the best of my knowledge they have never set fire to the desk they were working on.
So Trees, my hats off to you this week. You put on quite a show. Rest well, we’ll see you in the Spring.