# Nature’s Puzzle Fun: Sunflowers and Shapes

This sunflower is an amazing example of living geometric engineering. I know of several middle school math teachers that would giggle with delight at this mouth-watering choice of shapes and forms.

As you view the sunflower carefully, the discovery of cones, triangles, circles and even pentagrams suddenly show themselves in a magical and alluring way.  Nature creates a puzzle of various designs and structures all the while implementing them in a living plant.

The amazing thing is the shapes found inside each shape.  Notice the focus on the band of black cones, each ending with 3 dimensional shapes in a star pattern on top.  All of those star patterns connect to a cone shape that sprouts majestically from a small pentagram.  Yet, all together, they form a sweeping black band in a semi-circular pattern that divides the work and flower into each part.

This band separates the ever-increasing density of the sloping conical-shaped face and the flat expanding petals of the flower.  Even the colors divide into separate areas due to that black and yellow band.  Nature even allows colors to join in this dance of geometry.  The sun-kissed greens of the undeveloped seeds slope towards the more traditional sunflower yellow of the petals.  Indeed, the sunlight striking the petals actually enhances our perception of the color changing from green to black towards yellow.

Only nature exists in such a perfect form.  All of these shapes and colors exist for attraction.  Sure, we has humans enjoy the fragrance, sight, and complexity of the flowers but it irresistible to the insects like butterflies and bees that the plant wished to attract.  Such beauty allows a perfect winning scenario. The sunflower becomes pollinated, the insects get a meal, and we get to decorate and have a snack of sunflower seeds.  Perfect wins all around!

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The first real cold front of the season has finally rolled through the area, meaning we no longer have to suffer in 90 degree or more heat,  and I thought now would be a good time to say goodbye to summer.

During my exploration of the local sunflower field this summer,  I couldn’t help but notice that all the sunflowers were facing the same direction.  It was a curious sight and gave an impression that the entire field was “looking” at something.   After a little research at The Naked Scientists website , I had my answer.

I discovered that the sunflower tracks the sun through the sky during the day. Since the flower has no muscles, if manages to do this by growing cells in the stem on the eastern part in the morning, facing the sun, and the western part in the afternoon, following the sun.  By the end of the day the stem, once re-balanced, repeats the process in the morning.  This gives it the appearance that it follows the path of the sun. This odd behavior helps insects.  Facing the sun with those large flower heads causes the flowers and the seed area to warm up quicker than the surrounding plant.  Insects depend on this warmth to help regulate their body temperature and thus become more active.  So, they visit the flower more often.  Being more active on the flower means a greater chance of the flower being pollinated and reproducing.  It also means you get great fine art!  I love it when everyone wins.

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# No, Not Camera, It’s Gamera!

In years of ancient lore there existed only 4 television stations and no way to record anything, you had to know when your show was on and make sure you were in front of the TV for it.

A show played every Saturday afternoon called Creature Feature with some dressed up host with a huge facial scar and scary music telling macabre jokes that a 6-year-old is too young to understand.  Nor did I care; I was there at 2:00 p.m. to see what monster movie they had on.  One of my favorites was Gamera.

Gamera stars in a series of old 1960’s sci-fi Japanese monster movies where the acting was strange by American cultural standards and the English Is dubbed over the original Japanese and doesn’t match the mouths of the actors.  Gamera itself was a giant monster turtle that fought other monsters while generally destroying Tokyo to save the world.

This turtle in the pond was the largest one there.  He looked mean and green and the other turtles were nowhere near him.  He was content to float in the green murky water and didn’t seem to be in a particular hurry to go anywhere for anything.   All the while, I could see those large web claws on his front feet and his algae ridden scratched hard shell.  This turtle had lived in the pond for some time.  So,  when I caught a glimpse of this tough guy I remembered Gamera the monster turtle and the name stuck.

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# A Kitten Under a Bush?

I love unusual trivia.  For instance, did you know that the proper name for a baby rabbit is not “bunny”.  It’s proper name is kit or kitten.  This may seem strange, but consider that most Americans refer to children with the term used to describe baby goats.

People tend to get excited about baby animals and Spring is an awesome time to find them. They always make great photographic art that people love to own.

When this photograph happened, It was a comfortable day in the spring and I was walking through a winding trail around some deep green azalea bushes.  I noticed some movement as I came around a small bend and staring at me was this cute little guy.  Instantly I froze, worried that any movement on my part would send him hopping off into the bushes.

At first, I’m not sure who was more surprised, the rabbit or myself, but there he sat inquisitively .   I could tell that he was young because he did not try to run from me.  I guess he didn’t know to be afraid of people yet.

That being said, he watched me constantly as I slowly sat down in a rough nest of bark mulch.  I wanted him to be comfortable with me just sitting there so I didn’t dare make any sudden movements and every few seconds I would move very slowly, like an animated statue, inching a little closer to him.

His response was somewhere between “What am I looking at?” and “Oh, look some green munchy grass!”  I could imagine his little brain try to size me up and he always managed to place himself in a place where he could easily take off into the bushes if I indeed was a threat.

So, calmly, I started taking pictures. I thought that he would become a nice addition to my greeting card collection. I can’t tell you how glad I was that I spent the money on a remote trigger for my camera when it’s on a tripod.  I would setup my shot on the little guy, slowly sit back down and shoot remotely. It saved me from making too much motion and possibly scaring him away.

At one point, he had turned his back to me.  He still kept a watchful glance, but clearly, I was no longer his number one concern.  The picture Oh, I See You is a direct result of spending a wonderful hour in the early morning with a kitten under a bush.

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# A Day With A Blue Jay

After taking the picture of a blue jay feather on the ground, You walk around some bushes and down a slope to discover this cute creature.  At the time, you may believe that this bird was just a blue jay.  He looks like he was fighting with other blue jays.  Knowing that blue jays are rather territorial this doesn’t strike you as surprising. It’s that time of spring when mating and small hatchlings are beginning to fly about, and you have seen several small baby robins twittering about.

Be excited!  Who doesn’t love to take picture of cute animals and this little guy is simply perched on this low branch right next to you. He’ll spend most of his time checking you out and trying to decide if you’re a threat or just another creature walking by.  This is perfect!  You know the pictures are going to come out great.  You’ve already thought of a space in your office where he can show off your wall.

You notice his body feathers have a ruffled look to them.  His whole body highlighted by the bright sun,, which has revealed itself from behind the clouds and is shining in full force.  You stand still for a short time to watch your new feathery friend scurrying up and down the branches, looking at you, looking at the ground, and then back at you again.  He seems so agitated, but you think he would become an excellent work of art.  You slowly lift your camera and start taking his picture. Soon, he grows tired of you just looking at him with a large camera attached to your face and decides  to head off for more profitable trees.

It was then when a nice lady you met earlier that day, whom one could only describe as being one of those fine examples of a southern Texas belles with her broad brim spring hat and a quiet Texas accent , finds you to give some advice.   She and a friend of hers were wandering the gardens after visiting with you earlier and they discovered a mother blue jay with a tiny chick in a nest nearby.

Imagine your surprise when you discover that the frazzled male blue jay isn’t the victim of a recent fight.  He isn’t disheveled and ragged looking hopping from branch to branch ceaselessly because of his wounds.  Instead, he’s trying to find food constantly.  He’s a new father!

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