The Columbian Exchange by Bill and Anna Daly

 

The Columbian Exchange by Bill and Anna Daly

In 1492, all silk and spices going to Spain had to pass through Muslim lands. This meant that the Muslims made money on all the silk and spices sold in Spain. Catholic Spain hated giving money to the Muslims. Here is a PBS-like dramatization of a typical trading conversation between a fifteenth century Spaniard and Muslim. Notice that they refer to the lack of sewers at the time. None of us could visit a fifteenth century city or village without losing our lunch.

COlumbus-IssabellaChristopher Columbus told the queen of Spain that he could get to China and India by sailing around the world. That way, they could buy silk and spices for less money and not have to give any money to the Muslims. The queen’s scientists told her that a man named Eratosthenes had figured out how big the earth was 250 years before Jesus was born. They said there was no way that Columbus could sail around the earth without stopping and that she should ignore him because he was crazy. The queen decided to let Columbus try anyway. Columbus was wrong about the size of the earth, but luckily for him, he hit a continent before he was halfway around the world. Columbus had discovered the America’s by accident. This discovery changed the world more than any other event since people started farming.

614px-Invincible_Armada It changed the world because people started to sail back and forth between the Old world (Eurasia and Africa) and the New world ( the Americas). As they did so, they brought plants and animals from the Old world to the New world and brought plants and animals from the New world to the Old world. It was as if the two worlds were trading organisms. We call this trade of organisms The Columbian Exchange. Although the Columbian Exchange is about all organisms (including the diseases that killed up to 90% of all Native Americans), we are going to write only about the exchange of organisms that we eat. This exchange changed the diets of people around the world and helped create the cuisines that we think about when we think about different countries.

 

Bruegel,_Pieter_de_Oude_-_De_val_van_icarus_-_hi_res

 

 

 

 

 

When the Europeans first arrived, the only domesticated animals in the Americas were dogs, turkey, llamas, alpacas, and guinea pigs. None of these, except turkeys, could be used as a food source, so the Europeans brought pigs, sheep’s, goats, and cattle. They also brought horses to help them plow their fields and to be used for their transportation.

 

 

640px-Bacon_cheeseburgerIt is interesting to think that the All-American-Meals (steaks and hamburgers) are from Europe. The American cuisine was not the only one that was changed by The Columbian Exchange. Imagine Mexican food without beef, chicken, cheese, and cumin; all of which are from the old world. Imagine Italian food without tomatoes. Imagine Chinese, Indian, or Tai foods without peppers. Imagine Germany or Great Britain without the potato. We are going to provide maps that show the foods that traveled both ways. The exchange of organisms was very lopsided even if the list might seem somewhat equal at first glance. Crops going from the New world to the Old world did not change the landscape of the Old world. Corn, peppers, and potatoes may have taken the place of some wheat and barley crops, but those crops were already in place. Organisms coming from the Old world to the New world completely changed the landscape of the America’s. Forests were cut and grasslands were tilled to plant European crops as well. Pigs, sheep, cattle, and horses changed the land with their grazing. Even the varieties of humans living in the Americas has changed since Columbus’ first visit.

new-to-old-ceThis Map shows foods that went from the New World to the Old Word.

 

old-to-newThis Map shows foods that went from the Old World to the New World.

California by Anna Daly

I have been to California three times.  I found it beautiful and very interesting.  California has a unique geography, history, and economy.537px-Digital-elevation-map-california

California, the third largest state, is on the Pacific Ocean and just north of Mexico.  There are two large bays in California.  One is called the San Francisco Bay and the other is called the Monterey Bay.  The Klamath Mountains, the Coast Ranges, and the Sierra Nevadas make the biggest valley in the world called the Central Valley.  In the Central Valley, 230 different crops and 600 million pounds of almonds are grown every year.  It is one of the best places to grow food in the world.

slo_09_web                     Photo courtesy of California Missions Resource Center

“The Golden State” has an interesting history.  Native American tribes made domed-shaped homes made out of willows or tulle reeds.  Sometimes, in Southern California, Indians would use whalebones for holding up roofs on their homes.  House_Miwok_Yosemite_CAIn Central California, they leaned bark to make tepee-shaped houses.  In the Northwest, they used elkhorn wedges to make boards out of Redwood trees.  Then they would use the boards to build rectangular houses.   1024px-Hupa_Sweat_HouseThe coastal Indians ate fish, oysters, clams, sea otters, and seals.  The inland Indians ate deer, rabbits, elk, and antelope.  The most common food all California Indians ate was acorns.  They would grind the acorns into a powder with a mortar and pestle.  They would pour water over the ground acorns to get rid of the bitter flavor.  Then they boiled the acorns with water to make a thick soup.  They ate this soup with every meal.

San_Luis_Rey_de_Francia_circa_1910_William_Amos_HainesIn 1542, Joao Rodrigues Cabrillo sailed along the California coast and claimed south and central California for Spain.  Between 1769  and 1842, the Spanish built 20 missions from San Diego to Sonoma, which is just north of the San Francisco Bay.  The Mexicans defeated the Spanish, in 1821, and California became part of Mexico.  Between 1846 and 1848 the U.S fought with Mexico over where the border was between Mexico and the U.S.528px-Panning_on_the_Mokelumne  This war was called The Mexican-America War.  The U.S. won and forced Mexico to sell California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and part of Colorado and New Mexico for 15 million dollars.  The next year, in 1849, gold was discovered in California.  Thousands of people moved there to find gold during the Gold Rush.  In 1846, San Francisco only had 200 people.  By 1852, there were 36,000 people.  In 1850, California became a state.  In 1869, a railroad was completed that went all the way across the country, opening California to more people.

Xp3-dot-us_DSC8991The economy of California is the biggest in the US and is as large as most countries.  In 2012, California had the eighth largest economy in the world, bigger than Russia’s, Canada’s, India’s, and Mexico’s.  One quarter of the economy is from trade with other countries.  Agriculture is another major part of California’s economy.  Important agricultural products are milk and cream, shelled almonds, and grapes.  California has a lot of rich people.  In 2010, there were more than 663,000 millionaires in the state, more than any other state in the nation.

California is a significant part of the US because of its important geography, history, and economy.

What Food Is

What Food Is  by Bill and Anna Daly

We would like to write a blog about what food is.  Obviously, food is anything you eat, but food doesn’t stay the same after you’ve eaten it.  It gets digested.  Digestion is the breakdown of food into molecules that are small enough to get into the bloodstream.  These molecules are called nutrients.  There are five different types of nutrients: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins.  These nutrients have three basic functions in our cells.  Some are used as a source of energy, others are used as building blocks for the cells, and others are used to drive chemical reactions that keep the cells alive.

Carbohydrates are made of sugar molecules.  They can be monosaccharides (one sugar molecule like glucose), disaccharides (two sugar molecules like sucrose),  and polysaccharides (many sugar molecules linked together like starch).  Cells use monosaccharides for energy.  Polysaccharides are used for short term energy storage.  There are good ways and bad ways to get your carbohydrates.

Good-CarbsThese are healthy foods with carbohydrates.    Wikimedia

Vegetables, fruits, whole grains,  whole wheat bread, and beans are good ways to get your carbohydrates.  These have polysaccharides that come with lots of fiber (food that can’t be digested) which aids digestion.

Bad-carbsThese are yummy foods, but bad ways to get carbohydrates.    Wikimedia

Candy, noodles, white bread, and white rice are not so healthy ways to get your carbohydrates .  These are either simple sugars or polysaccharides that have had the fiber removed from them.

Let’s take a minute to discuss what we mean when we say cells use carbohydrates as an energy source.  Just exactly, how do we get energy from a sugar molecule and how do we use that energy?  Let’s start by discussing how a sugar molecule is made.  Plants use the energy from the sun to break CO2 and water molecules into atoms.  They then use the sun’s energy to put those atoms together into a sugar molecule.  Energy is stored in the bonds that hold those atoms together.  We can write this series of chemical reactions as one chemical reaction: CO2 + H20 + Energy from the sun = O2 + C6 H12 O6 (Glucose sugar).  The plant can either leave that sugar as it is or store it as a polysaccharide (that is, many sugars linked together).

Sugar-Carrot2This diagram shows how the leaves of a carrot use energy from the sun to make sugars.  The sugars can then be sent to the root where they can remain as a sugar or get linked together to form starch (a polysaccharide).  When we eat a carrot, we are eating energy from the sun that has been stored in sugar and starch molecules.

Our digestive track breaks polysaccharides into sugars.  The sugars are absorbed into our bloodstream and taken to the cells in our bodies.  Our cells have special organelles called Mitochondria that can break down sugar to release the energy stored in their chemical bonds.  They take the energy stored in the sugar molecule and store it in another molecule called ATP.  The ATP molecules float around the inside of the cells and release energy when it is needed to drive chemical reactions.

Let us know if you found this blog interesting.  We plan to write about the other four nutrients in future posts.

An Illistrated History: 9,000B.C. to 539B.C.

 Illustrated History .3 by Anna and Bill Daly

Farming allowed people to settle in villages.  Villages grew into cities.  Cities grew into city states.  City states were very large cities that were supplied by smaller cities and villages that surrounded them.  These city states grew into empires.  These empires were always fighting each other for land and people.  The Assyrians fought with the Babylonians.  The Hittites fought with Egypt.  This fighting went on until the Babylonians, under king Nebakenezer, defeated the Assyrians around the year 600 B.C..  Babylon then ruled the areas that used to be held by the Hittites, Assyrians, Phoenicians, and Egyptians.  Nebakenezer destroyed Jerusalem and made most of the Jews move to Babylon.  As time went by, the Jewish elders worried that their young people were becoming Babylonian and that they would forget the Jewish stories that were passed down from generation to generation.

Oy-Vey

The elders decided that they should get together and write all of the stories down.  These stories became the old testament of the bible.  The Jews should not have worried.  The Persians defeated the Babylonians in 539 B.C. and set the Jews free.

Great developments occurred during the time of the early empires;

1.  People figured out how to write things down. 

The Mesopotamians wrote cuneiform on clay tablets. 

Taxes

The Egyptians wrote Hieroglyphics on papyrus. 

Blah,-Blah,-Blah

2.  People invented the wheel.

Wheel

3.  People learned how to use tin and copper, then learned how to mix tin and copper to make bronze, and then how to forge iron.

Metal-vs-Wooden

Osmosis by Anna and Bill Daly

Osmosis

Osmosis is the movement of water across a membrane.   Water moves from low concentrations of salts to high concentrations of salts.  Here is a video explaining osmosis.

We did an experiment to try to demonstrate how osmosis works in nature.  Here is a video that explains the experiment.

Results:  Both slices of potato weighed 10 grams before we put them in the waterbowls.  We weighed them again after they sat in the bowls for an hour.  The potato in distilled water was really stiff  and weighed 11 grams.  It had a 10% increase in weight ( 1 gram / 10 grams times 100).  In the salt water, the potato was really wobbly and weighed 8 grams.  It had a 20% decrease in weight.

Why:  The potato in distilled water was really stiff and weighed more because the water moved into its cells.  In the salt water, the potato was really wobbly and weighed less because the water moved out of the potato cells.  The wobbliness and stiffness of the potato slices is a result of turgor pressure.  All plant cells have cell walls.  Turgor pressure is the pressure of the cell membrane against the cell wall.  Plant cells have water vacuoles ( sacks).  These vacuoles fill with water to create turgor pressure against the cell wall.

Turgor-Presssure

Notice how the cell walls in the diagram above are straight (stiff).   This is because the pressure, from the filled water vacuoles, pushes against the cell walls.  This is what causes the stiffness in a potato and plant leaves such as the plant pictured below.

Plant

Turgor

Notice how the cell walls in this diagram are curved (wobbly).  That is because there isn’t enough water in the vacuoles to put pressure on the cell walls.  That is why the potato slice in salt water became wobbly and why plants lacking water, such as the one pictured bellow, become limp.

Willting-plant

Here is a video that explains why the plant in the lower picture is limp and the plant in the upper picture is upright.

Hinduism

Hinduism by Anna and Bill Daly

Hinduism is the oldest religion.  Most Hindus live in India.  Hindus believe that cows are sacred.  They do not eat cows. There are a lot of different types of Hinduism.  Many Hindus believe in many different gods.  There are over 1,000 different gods in Hinduism.  Some Hindus believe there is only one god, and other Hindus don’t believe there is a god.  Hindus believe that the desire of our bodies (I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m happy, I want .etc) are distractions from knowing our true-selves.  They believe that our souls are our true selves and that our souls are one with god or the universe.  Hindus believe that the soul never dies.  When you die you  are immediately reborn into another body or form.  They believe that a person needs many lifetimes to discover their true-self, and when a person discovers their true-self they are no longer reborn.

Hindus have invented many ways to help them discover their true-selves.  Yoga and meditation come from Hindu traditions.  Yoga and meditation help people to clear their minds of different thoughts so that they can find their true-selves.

Out-of-body

Here I am having an out-of-body experience while meditating.

Hindus use the word Dharma.  Dharma is a person’s actions.  It is trying to live a moral life and to do ones duty.  Dharma is always trying to do the right thing.

Hindus use the word Karma as well.  Karma is the idea that your actions affect what happens in the future.  If you do good things, good things will come your way in the future.  If you do bad things, bad things will come your way in the future.  So, your Dharma affects your Karma.  Good Dharma creates good Karma.

Hand-in-the-cookie-jar

Here is an example of bad Dharma leading to bad Karma.

Hindus use the word Samsara.  Samsara is reincarnation.  When you die, you immediately are reborn into another body or form.  Your Karma affects what your reborn as.  A person with good Karma will be reborn as a more successful human.  A person with bad Karma might not even be reborn as a human.  They might be reborn as a cockroach.

Hindus believe that a person’s behavior is their Dharma.  A person’s Dharma effects their Karma.  A person’s Karma affects their Samsara.   A soul is reborn as many times as it takes to discover ones true-self.  A person will stop being reborn when they discover their true-self.  At that point they will be one with god or the universe.

Anna's-true-self

Find Anna’s true-self

Coral Biology by Bill and Anna Daly

Coral_reef_at_palmyra

Wikimedia Commons

 Coral is in the family Cnideria.  Jellyfish and Sea anemones are also Cnidarians.  Cnidarians are animals that have radial cemetery,  special stinging cells called nematocysts, no backbones, and no anus (they have to spit out their waste).  Coral are like tiny Sea anemones that grow in colonies.  They are different from the rest of the other Cnidarians because they make calcium-carbonate skeletons to hold and protect the colony.  Coral are important to the places they live because they create their own ecosystems.

In the first stage of a coral’s life cycle, it releases eggs and sperm into the ocean.  In many species, this happens 8 days after the full moon in August when seas tend to be calm.

Brain_coral_spawning

Brain Coral Spawning.   Wikimedia Commons

When the sperm fertilizes the egg, the zygote grows into a tiny free swimming larva.  In most species, the larva will swim around for two days.  It then  swims down to the bottom of the ocean and lands on something.  If it lands on a good spot, it will grow into a polyp.  A coral polyp is like a tiny Sea anemone.  As the polyp grows, it buds into more polyps.  These polyps keep budding as the coral grows.

Montastraea_cavernosa_(Great_Star_Coral)_with_polyps_partially_open

Polyps of Great Star Coral.   Wikimedia Commons

The polyps also secrete (ooze) calcium-carbonate at their base as they grow.  This forms the hard body that most people think of as coral.

1024px-Corales_en_el_Parque_Marino_Motu_Motiro_Hiva_5

Hard coral reef.  Wikimedia Commons

A coral polyp is really simple.  It only has three parts: the tentacles, the mouth, and the stomach.  The tentacles grab the food and put it into the mouth. The mouth just keeps the food in its stomach.  The stomach digests the food, and spits out anything it can’t digest.  The tentacles catch the food by using specialized cells called nematocysts.  A Nematocyst is a cell with a tiny harpoon that shoots out to catch plankton.  When the Nematocysts have been triggered, the tentacles curl into the mouth and bring the food to the stomach.  Here is a 30 second video showing nematocysts firing.  You can see how a little plankton doesn’t stand a chance.

Zooxanthellae are algae that live in coral and other Cnidarians.  The Zooxanthellae live inside of the polyp cells.  They are members of the Dinoflagellates (mostly photosynthetic zooplankton with two flagella).  The Zooxanthellae produce sugars by a process called photosynthesis.  They give a lot of their sugars to the coral.  Many corals get over 80% of their food from Zooxanthellae.  Zooxanthellae need sunlight for photosynthesis.  That is why you find most corals in shallow waters where there is the most sunlight.    Coral also give nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphate to the Zooxanthellae, so it is a mutualistic (both organisms benefit) relationship.

Diagram

Diagram of a cross section of a coral polyp’s tentacle showing that polyps are only 2 cells thick with a gel layer inside.  Note the polyp cell eating the Zooxanthellae.  

Coral provide a habitat for many different types of organisms.  They create their own type of ecosystems.  Scientists estimate that over one million species are connected to coral ecosystems.  These ecosystems are being threatened.  19% of coral reefs have disappeared since the 1950′s.

Coral_Fish_(2863778947)

Wikimedia Commons

The major cause of coral reef lose is due to coral bleaching.  Coral bleaching happens when coral lose their zooxanthellae.  It is called coral bleaching because the coral turn white when they lose their zooxanthellae.

coral bleaching

Wikimedia Commons

Coral kick out the zooxanthellae when the temperatures get to high or too low, and when nutrient levels get to high.  The ocean temperatures have been rising over the last several years.  It will be very bad for coral ecosystems if the temperatures continue to rise, so let’s go snorkeling and see it while we can!