An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
of September 5, 2004
issued from the woods near Natchez, Mississippi, USA


A few days ago I sowed fall beds of mustard greens, kale and turnips, so now the beds are prettily green. When the seeds sprouted, first they produced two little leaves atop their stems opposite one another, and then the seedlings sat awhile before developing more growth. Technically those first two leaves are known as cotyledons. They have a special name because they're very different from the plants' other leaves, having been formed inside the seed before germination.

During that apparent resting stage between when the cotyledons appeared and when new growth developed, the young plants were actually working furiously, sending roots deep into the soil, and preparing for future shoot growth. During that quiet-looking stage I wasn't able to look at my pretty beds of greens, kale and turnips without visualizing spaceships orbiting the Earth.

For, both spaceships and seeds undergo voyages that are fundamentally alike. When they are launched or sowed, and activated either by signals from technicians on the ground or by moisture in the soil penetrating the seed's seedcoat, the first stirrings inside the module/seed are powered by stored energy -- energy stored in the spaceship's batteries, or among the seed's atomic bonds. Once the module reaches its orbit or the seed has sprouted, typically both have used up their stored energy. At that point both module and seedling do the same thing -- they tap into a new energy source by deploying solar collectors. The spaceship has its black solar panels and my mustard plants have their photosynthesizing green cotyledons.

To emphasize this similarity, atop my Photosynthesis Page at I present a picture of the orbiting International Space Station, with most of its surface area consisting of solar panels. The Station looks both awkward and elegant, depending on where you put your head when you look at it. When I look at I tend to hear something close to "music of the spheres" -- which could be defined as the mentally perceived sound of real-world events harmonizing with the Universe's basic laws.

To me it's beautiful when humans and nature come to the same conclusion, even when the question is over such a simple matter as "Once something gets launched, then what?" The answer for spaceships, mustard greens, and humans with sustainable living on their minds is: "deploy solar collectors."