John McCreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Wed, 7 Aug 1996 09:26:08 +0900

I concluded a recent rejoinder to Snower by asking for subtlety. I thought
I'd better provide an example. The following is from the July 1996 issue of
Smithsonian magazine, from an article by John F. Ross describing the work
of SERC, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, in Maryland on the
western shore of Chesapeake Bay.

"Over the past 30 years, this place--land, water and air--has been poked,
prodded and measured by scientists, technicians, interns and volunteers.
Despite our familiarity with Eastern deciuous forests and estuary
ecosystems, we still have a lot to learn. The mechanism we want to
understand are largely invisible, and often fast-moving and microscopic or
so large and slow-moving that they are difficult to detect. Often the clues
to nature's workings are found where humans normally are strangers: deep
underground, at the bottom of the estuary, in the canopy a hundred feet

Thirty years on the same 2,600 acres and there's still a lot to learn. Ross

"SERC scientists are learning all the time. They've recently discovered,
for example, a way to measure the impact of the increase in the ultraviolet
component of sunlight as earth's ozone layer things. The increased
radiation slows photosynthesis in the microscopic plants known as
phytoplankton, the bay's tiniest organisms. They've also found that trees
soak up most of the acid in rain, and that a drop of rain may undergo
enormous chemical changes between the time it hits the first leaf and the
time it hits the ground....They've also stumbled across a new mystery:
somewhere in the system are 'black holes' into which vast quantitites of
nutrients simply disappear."

Note the patience, the modesty, the attention to detail. Isn't there a
lesson here?

John McCreery
3-206 Mitsusawa HT, 25-2 Miyagaya, Nishi-ku
Yokohama 220, JAPAN

"And the Lord said unto Cyrus, 'Shall the clay say to him who moldest it,
what makest thou? Let the potsherd of the earth speak to the potsherd of
the earth." --An anthropologist's credo