Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Of Greenhouse gases and healthy plants

Every once in a while the New York Times gets it. Even in the science section.

In an article entitled Green, Life-giving, and Forever Young Natalie Angier makes a lot of good points about the importance of plants. Unfortunately, she gets into evolutionary theory and messes it up. She finds plants so different from animals that "it's like plants evolved on Mars." And then, the very mechanisms that entice insects and humming birds to polinate many plants are somehow clever tricks of time and chance.

And then, there are a few things left out. Plants are said to make their own food through photosynthesis upon sunlight. And then the wonderful mechanisms of capillary action and evaporation get water as far as 400 feet from the roots. And, of course OXYGEN is produced.

But plants cannot make food out of water and sunlight alone. Sunlight is the energy, chlorophyl is the cataclyst, but the missing ingredient is none other than that -- shall we say it? -- is Carbon Dioxide! Yep, that dreaded "green house" gas that is threatening the planet! According to the article at wikipedia, the equation is:

6 CO2(gas) + 12 H2O(liquid) + photons → C6H12O6(aqueous) + 6 O2(gas) + 6 H2O(liquid)
carbon dioxide + water + light energy → glucose + oxygen + water
And so, the plants make SUGAR from atmospheric CO2 and give off oxygen and that OTHER -- gasp! -- greenhouse gas: WATER! Yes, the unmentioned greenhouse gas that NONE of us can live without, be we animal or plant, is good old H2O!

In fact, there is more water produced in the burning of fossile fuels than there is in carbon dioxide. If you reverse the equation above you can easily see this:

Heat + C6H12O6 6 CO2 + 12 H2O

It's clear -- twice as much water as carbon dioxide! And -- horror of horrors -- the main combustion of sugars (and other carbon molecules) is done by ANIMALS. Every breath expels both greenhouse gases: water and carbon dioxide. My how well the system was DESIGNED, huh?

Furthermore, studies have found that the photons are not lost in the process. The energy is "trapped" in the food the plant is making. When an animal -- like man -- eats the food, especially "raw," the energy of the photons is ingested to be released as energy in the many processes of the body, including our own building of "bio-mass." I read this aways back, but this article on "bio-photons" is what came up on my google search. Plants actually "give off light"!

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