Monday, May 04, 2009

A Careful Scientific Observation

Proper science starts with observations of nature. So, I thought I would take a moment to explore an interesting scientific observation.

Scientists are often concerned with the age of things. Some things are easy to age. Others are difficult.

One of the simplest things to measure is the age of a tree.

As you see, a tree expands outward through the seasons. This growth effectively records the different conditions the tree experienced in its growth. For example, a tree would experience a spurt of growth during the warm summer months, and would experience stunted growth during the winter.

A scientist cutting along the base of the tree would find a series of rings emanating outward from the center of the tree. During the summer, the growth would be a light amber. The stunted growth during the winter might be a darker brown.

Simply by counting the rings in the trunk of the tree, the scientist could determine the number of summer and winters the tree experienced.

Imagine for a moment that the scientist counted 308 darker rings and 307 light rings.

How old is the tree?

Did you write down your answer?

Let's see how you scored.

If not. Please do.

The answer might surprise you.

You see, I gave you a trick question.

Are you stumped?

Well, the tree is stumped.

The age of the tree is nothing.

The tree is dead.

Some clown with a saw cut it down.

[I will explain the reason for this post later this week. I will give you a hint. If your goal is to improve the health of a tree, cutting it down doesn't really help.]


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