Handle with Care

glass cannister of granolaI’ve learned to be cautious with grains.

They’re high in carbohydrates and, as I’ve gotten older, my body has grown more sensitive to carbs. Philip Maffetone’s In Fitness and in Health taught me that carbs were likely behind the chronic fatigue of my 30’s and the weight gain of my 40’s.

Gary Taubes, in his Good Calories, Bad Calories, explained some of why. When eaten, carbohydrates can provoke an inflammatory response (fatigue) and do cause the body to release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin then causes the body to cease burning fat for energy and switch to burning glucose. Which means the fatty acids stay in the fat cells, and more fatty acids are packed in (weight gain).

But there’s another reason to be cautious with grains. Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions explains that we modern westerners aren’t preparing whole grains safely any more. Our ancestors did. And a few of us still possess the old knowledge. (I did not.)

images depicting traditional peoples from around the worldIn India, rice and lentils are fermented for two days before being made into idli and dosas. In Africa, coarsely ground corn was soaked overnight before being added to soups and stews. Ethiopian injera bread is made by fermenting the grain teff for several days. American pioneers were famous for sourdough breads and biscuits. In old-fashioned European porridges, the oats or barley berries were soaked overnight or even for several days before cooking. Flours were never simply scooped from a canister, mixed into whatever, cooked, and eaten two hours later. There’s a reason for that!

All grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer, the bran.

Of course, you can eat refined grains which lack the bran and the germ, but that leads to its own set of health problems. (White flour acts on the body a lot like sugar.) But if you eat whole grains, improperly prepared, phytic acid will harm you.

So what’s the problem with phytic acid?

It combines with minerals in the digestive tract and blocks their absorption. All that lovely calcium or iron or zinc or whatever binds to the phytic acid and rides away, right out of the body. On top of that, phytic acid can be very irritating. Hello, irritable bowel syndrome! Hello, mineral deficiencies! Hello, osteoporosis!

And that’s not all.

The protein in grains, especially the gluten, is hard to digest. Soaking and fermenting breaks down these proteins into their simpler building blocks, which are much easier on digestion.

Consider animals nourished primarily by plants. They have multiple stomachs (sometimes four!) and long intestines. Plants take a lot of digesting! Humans have only one stomach and shorter intestines. We need the help of friendly lactobacilli (the bacteria in yogurt and other live foods) when we eat plants such as grains (and legumes).

Another possibility to consider: add a dollop of cream or butter to cooked grains. The fat acts as a catalyst for mineral absorption. You’ll get more of that critical calcium (for example), if you pair those oats with cream.

And a final consideration: most processed breakfast cereals – even granola, alas! – are downright dangerous. Not only are they rife with phytic acid, but they are processed at high heat and under high pressure. This destroys many of the valuable nutrients in grains, turns the fragile plant oils rancid, and changes the proteins enough to render them toxic.

The take-away lesson is that grains (and legumes) need to be soaked or sprouted to confer their benefits.

If you’re a baker, bake true sourdough breads or loaves made with sprouted grains. If you purchase your bread (raising my hand here), buy true sourdoughs (not just flavored with sourdough) and sprouted grain breads.

I go very light on the grains myself. But for all the grain lovers among us, I’ll share three basic recipes with the grains properly prepared. (Plus crisp nuts.)

The oatmeal in this photo has raisons in it, cooked on the stovetop with the oats, but not soaked overnight with the oats!

oatmealOatmeal

1 cup oats, rolled (not instant or quick-cooking)
1 cup filtered water, warmed (but not hot)
2 tablespoons whey or yogurt or lemon juice
1 more cup filtered water
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt

Add the whey to the warm water and soak the oats in it overnight (at least 7 hours). Find a warm spot. A covered bowl on the kitchen counter is fine, if your house isn’t too chilly.

(Chlorine can interfere with lacto-fermentation, so don’t use straight water-plant tap water.)

In the morning, bring the additional cup of water to a boil. Add the salt. Add the soaked oats (along with any remaining liquid). Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit (still covered) for 5 minutes.

Serve with cream or butter.

Other optional toppings include maple syrup, raw honey, apricot butter, or crisp nuts.

Rice

2 cups brown rice
4 cups filtered water, warmed
4 tablespoons whey or yogurt or lemon juice or vinegar
1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
3 tablespoons butter

Rinse and drain the rice.

Add whey to the warm water and soak the rice in it overnight (at least 7 hours).

When soaking is complete, transfer mixture to a cooking pot and bring it to a boil on the stove top.

Skim off the foam that rises to the top.

Lower the heat, add the salt and butter, stir, and then cover tightly. Cook (without removing the lid) for 45 minutes over very low heat.

Serve.

granolaGranola (a safe version)

This recipe is a bit involved. My kids adore it, but I don’t make it very often! In fact, it’s been more than a year for me. Which leads me to a note of warning. I’ve made lots of adjustments to the recipe since the first time, with lots of scribbly notes in the margins of my recipe binder. I hope I’ve deciphered them accurately! But if your rendition of this granola isn’t working, it’s probably me, not you. I hope to make granola this spring. (And if I discover I’ve erred, I’ll come back and correct myself.) So you might wait to try this until after my essay. Or – if you’re the adventurous sort – dive in and post any adjustments you make in the comments!

Update:I did make granola this spring (as promised to my kids). Twice! And the recipe as I posted it was pretty close to correct. But it needed a touch more spice. I increased the amount of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves in my second batch. Plus I made more. The first batch was devoured in 5 days flat. If you were waiting (as recommended above) for me to tweak my recipe, I’ve done so. The recipe below is the recipe. Go for it!

6 cups oats, rolled
6 cups filtered water, warmed
4 tablespoons whey or yogurt or lemon juice
3/8 cup butter (add 1 tablespoon butter, if you’re soaking the nuts with the oats)
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons maple syrup (add 1 tablespoon syrup, if soaking nuts with oats)
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 cups crisp nuts (no crisp nuts on hand? throw some in to soak with the oats)
2 cups raisins

draining and spreading the granolaAdd whey to warm water and soak oats in it overnight (at least 7 hours). If you are out of crisp nuts, add raw nuts to the oats to soak along with them.

Next day, drain the liquid off the oats. Press the mass a little (if it’s really soggy) to wring extra moisture out of it.

Spread baking parchment on 2 baking sheets. Spoon the oats onto the sheets and spread them out evenly. Place baking sheets in the oven and turn it on to 200ºF (no need to preheat). Bake for 3 hours. Check the oats for moisture. If you added nuts to soak with the oats, the mixture will be dry at the edges of the baking sheet, but still moist at the center. If you soaked the oats solo, they’ll be dry all the way through, but not crisp.

Near the end of this first baking, melt the butter, honey, and maple syrup. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside, off the heat.

granola in the makingRemove the oats from the oven. Put the oats in a large bowl and break up the large clumps using 2 butter knives. Then get a handful between your palms and rub your hands together. This works really well to break the clumps even further. Keep going until the texture of the oats is fairly fine. Then pour the butter mixture over the oats, and blend thoroughly.

Put fresh sheets of baking parchment on the baking sheets. (The used parchment will be soggy.) Spoon the oat mixture onto the baking sheets and spread evenly. Place back in the 200ºF oven. Stir the oats and re-spread them every hour. Bake for 4 hours.

Remove oats from oven and allow to cool. Break up any clumps with your hands. Mix the now-crisp oats with raisons and crisp nuts (if you didn’t add raw nuts at the soaking step). Store in an air-tight canister.

Serve however you prefer granola: with milk, with cream, with yogurt, with fruit, etc. It will be a little more crisp than conventional store-bought granola.

Crisp Walnuts

Use these as a topping on oatmeal, in the granola recipe above, or as a snack. Just like grains and legumes, nuts should be soaked to neutralize the many enzyme inhibitors in them.

4 cups walnut pieces, raw
2 teaspoons Celtic sea salt
filtered water to cover nuts

Mix the salt with the filtered water and soak the nuts in it overnight (at least 7 hours).

Next day, drain the nuts in a colander.

Put baking parchment on a baking sheet. Spread the nuts evenly on it. Place in oven, turn on to 150ºF and “bake” for 12-24 hours, until completely dry and crisp. Stir the nuts with a spoon and re-spread them occasionally. (If you have a food dehydrator, use that!)

Store the nuts in an air-tight container.

Walnuts, alone of all the nuts, must be stored in the refrigerator. Their unique composition of oils will go rancid at room temperature. The other nuts may be safely stored at room temperature.

This recipe may be used for pecans, almonds, or macadamias. Do not use it for cashews. Cashews are not raw when they come to us. They contain a toxic oil that must be released and removed by two separate heatings before humans can eat them safely. This means that they’ll get slimy and nasty if soaked too long or dried too slowly. Soak them at most 6 hours. Dry them in a 200ºF oven.

Nourishing Traditions at Amazon

Nourishing Traditions at B&N

For more Nourishing Traditions posts, see:
Yogurt & Kefir & Koumiss, Oh My!
Amazing Lactobacilli
Beet Kvass

Some posts challenging politically correct nutrition:
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!
Test first, then conclude!
Thinner and Healthier

And some more recipes:
Coconut Chocolates
Coconut Salmon
Baked Carrots

Do you have any old-time grain recipes that include the soaking or sprouting of grains?
Do please share!

 

Running Mushrooms

image depicting old growth forestFirst, a confession: I didn’t read every page of Mycelium Running. I didn’t even read most of them! So why am I telling you about this book? The half of it I did read was amazing. But let me explain.

Mycelium Running is a manual geared toward practicalities, toward getting out there and getting your hands dirty. If you need to know how to heal an ailing forest under your care, how to purify bacteria-laden water running off your land, or how to restore your compacted and abused back yard, then Paul Stamets’ book will tell you exactly what you need to know.

But I’m not quite ready for action. I do hope to tackle my clay-imbued and weed-strewn garden over the next few years, but I’ve got other projects ahead of that one on my to-do list. Mostly I’m gathering facts, seeking to understand the big picture. And Mycelium Running is good for that too – especially the earlier chapters. Thus I dare bring it to your attention.

The basic facts of mycelium are fascinating. And the scope of its influence and potential are far beyond anything I might have imagined. Frankly, before I read Mycelium Running, I hadn’t thought much about mushrooms. I loved eating them sautéed in butter. I enjoyed spotting them during August nature walks. And I took pleasure in whimsical paintings featuring fey dancers amidst mushroom circles. Essentially, I was ignorant!

Which meant I loved the experience of having my eyes opened. (Yes, nothing like tickling my curiosity!)

But what is mycelium anyway? The dictionary names it the vegetative part of a fungus. It consists of a mass of branching, thread-like filaments called hyphae. Healthy soils harbor colonies of mycelia, but tree bark or fallen leaves or your compost heap (if, cool) also feed mycelial or fungal mats.

Fungi eat by secreting acids and enzymes into their surroundings and then absorbing the created nutrients through the cells of their mycelia.

The mushrooms we notice springing from a forest floor or among the grass blades of a lawn are almost a side show of the drama hidden below ground. That’s where the real action transpires. Spores released from a mushroom (the fruiting body of the fungus) germinate like plant seeds when they encounter the right moisture, temperature, and nutrients. From microscopic grains, they grow and branch, and grow and branch, creating a mycelial mat. Mycelial mats vary in size. The one supporting the health of a birch tree in your front yard might be just a few feet across. But one mycelium in eastern Oregon – Armillaria or honey mushroom – once covered 2,400 acres!

But more than just odd trivia make mycelia cool. In fact, I can’t confine myself to just three cool things. Here are six!

Mycelia Partner Plants

Most plants – from grasses to Douglas firs – have mycorrhizal mycelia as partners. These mycelia form sheaths around the plant roots and bring nutrients and moisture to the host plant, spreading a net far wider than the roots alone could do. And actively creating nutrients with the action of its enzymes and acids.

Plants with mycorrhizal partners thrive, growing faster and stronger than those without, and resisting diseases better. Their root masses are larger and denser. Their stems or trunks are thicker and taller. Their branches are leafier. The difference is dramatic. And some plants won’t grow at all without their attendant mycelia.

Mycellium is Nature’s Internet

The physical structure of mycelia shares the branching architecture of neural pathways in the mammalian brain. It also mirrors diagrams of the internet’s information-sharing systems. Mycelia might very well be the feedback loop by which planet Earth regulates its ecosystems. They certainly respond in complex ways to complex environments.

In one experiment, researchers mapped the flow of nutrients via mycellium between a Douglas fir, a paper birch, and a western red cedar. The researchers covered the fir, simulating deep shade. The mycellium responded by channeling sugars from the root zone of the birch to the root zone of the fir (which was unable to photosynthesize the sugars it needed).

Outside the lab, mycelia build soil, remove contaminants such as spilled diesel fuel, and filter bacteria out of polluted water.

Could mycelia possess a form of intelligence never envisioned by humans? Impossible to say at this point in history, but the biochemical connections formed by mycelia surpass those of supercomputers. And the organisms display nuanced responses to the world around them. Perhaps our next generation of computers will use fungi instead of copper micro-wire for hardware.

Even Parasites Bring Benefit

The most famous parasitic mushroom, Armillaria or the honey mushroom, is stigmatized as a blight. It can destroy thousands of acres of forest and is banned in many areas. But look again, and look longer. Parasitic fungi may serve to select the strongest plants for survival and to repair damaged habitats. Each time Armillaria swept through that 2,400-acre spot in Oregon, it created nurse logs for more directly benign fungi, it increased soil depth, and it covered barren rock with rich humus. The stage was set for a vibrant revival of habitats and ecosystems.

Mushrooms Lead Eco-restoration

Consider forest fires. The first species to appear amidst the ash and cinders are mushrooms – typically morels and cup fungi. They’re fast-growing and quick to decompose. As they mature and release spores, they also emit fragrances that attract insects and mammals. The insects attract birds, and all these newcomers bring seeds with them. Soon the wasteland burgeons with life – all starting with fungi.

Timber Is Not a Renewable Resource

The old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest accessible to loggers are largely gone. The first two replantings of logged areas are gone as well. Logging companies are now harvesting the third. But no one is making plans for a fourth replanting. Why? With each clear cut, the mycelia of the forest is damaged and the soil grows both thinner and poorer. You can’t get good wood from trees growing in exhausted soils, so many logging companies are selling their land.

Mushrooms Are Renewable

Now consider another patch of forest, this one in south central Oregon. Imagine harvesting timber from it. You’d get a substantial financial return, but eventually you’d reach the end of what you could profitably extract. When you were done, the land would be effectively barren.

But what if you harvested matsutake mushrooms – tasty and desirable – instead? The economic benefit would equal that of the timber (actual calculations have been done), but each year you’d also get thicker soils, reduced erosion, increased stream health, greater biodiversity, improving air quality, and increased regional cooling. And it can go on forever.

I’ll take it!

 

And do I recommend this book?

I do.

Just don’t try to read it from cover to cover. Begin with part one, where the big picture info is dense. As technicalities creep in, start skipping a bit. Part two held my interest. Part three is where I touched down lightly. (I’m not ready for mushrooms species specifics yet!)

I’m normally a cover-to-cover reader, but this book was worth adjusting my reading style for. It changed my world view. Again! Give it a try. It might change yours!

Mycelium Running at Amazon

Mycelium Running at B&N

For more green living concepts, see:
Permaculture Gardening
Green Housekeeping
Grass Green

For more cool science trivia, see:
Water

 

Green Housekeeping

There′s a lot of ″green″ advice in books, in magazines, and online. Too much of it describes what we should do, or what might be good to do, or what somebody plans to do. We all know what happens when theory gets practical: the bugs jump out.

house-shaped windows of green texturesGreen Housekeeping by Ellen Sandbeck is a different animal altogether. Too quirky to be anything but real, the book describes her actual experience and why her practice is effective.

I′ll follow my ″three cool things″ format of recommendation, starting with the method that won my own housekeeping-averse heart.

Cleaning Simplicity

There are two magic ingredients: vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. Both are safe, natural substances produced by living organisms. (Our own bodies actually create hydrogen peroxide – H2O2 – as a byproduct of our metabolism.)

When hydrogen peroxide encounters organic material (think germs) it releases its extra oxygen atom, becoming mere water (H2O) in the process. That′s what all that foaming and bubbling is when you spray: the extra oxygen is popping off and killing bacteria.

Vinegar kills a lot of bacteria on its own, but hydrogen peroxide kills 100 times as many. When you give a squirt of both, you get another tenfold increase.

Let′s look at some numbers. Say a splash of vinegar from your spray bottle kills 1000 bacteria. A misting of hydrogen peroxide alone would zap 100,000 bacteria. While a spray of both gets 1 million. But all that′s left after spraying is harmless water. No chemical residue. I like it!

photo of safe cleaning solutionsAll you need is a spray bottle of vinegar and an original bottle of hydrogen peroxide with a sprayer cap screwed onto it. Put one pair in your kitchen and another in each bathroom. You′re set to keep those critical places safely clean.

Why the original bottle? Hydrogen peroxide loses its extra oxygen very easily. Just decanting it into another container can make that happen, as can light shining through a translucent spray bottle. You want water as an end product after cleaning, not as a starter!

Once I placed my paired solutions on location, I found myself using them frequently. Not running to fetch them was just as magical as the solutions themselves. (Needing to fetch often leads to not fetching at all, for me.) Just: squirt! squirt! done! (Or add a quick swipe with the microfiber rag kept by the bottles, if adhering toothpaste or avocado needs a scrub.) Cleaner sinks!

Laundry Boost

photo of laundry product named BerryPlusI use Berry+ and soap ″nuts″ to launder clothes and household linens. Soap ″nuts″ (or soapberries) are fruits of the tree sapindus mukorossi. The fruits can be used dried or to create a liquid extract (Berry+).

Why don′t I choose one or the other?

Convenience.

We do a lot of cold water laundry loads. I love being able to pop open a capsule of Berry+, pour it into the washer, close the lid, start the cycle, and go.

photo of soap nuts loose in a dish plus a laundry bag full of themSoap nuts must either be soaked for 5 minutes in warm water (then dumped along with the soak water into the washer) or tossed into a washer destined for a warm or hot water wash. Since my husband and I are both allergic to dust mites, our sheets, pillowcases, blankets, and towels must be laundered in water over 130°F. (The high temp gets rid of the allergens.) Soap nuts are perfect for that job.

The advantage of both soap nuts and Berry+ is that the outflow spilling from my washer to the water treatment plant is non-toxic. Soapberries have been used by the peoples of Asia and by Native Americans for thousands of years. That′s time tested!

I fell in love with soapberries when I found that my berry-laundered clothes developed almost zero static cling in the dryer and emerged from it smelling faintly of freshly ironed cotton. Yum!

(Alas, yes, I do use a dryer. Although our drying rack is usually equally full once I′ve emptied the washer.)

But what to do when the grass stains or the clay stains or whatever need extra cleaning? Sometimes spot treatment with Berry+ will do the trick. Sometimes it won′t.

Ellen Sandbeck′s chapter on laundry educated me about an old-fashioned product that′s never truly left the cleaning lexicon and is now enjoying a resurgence of use: 20 Mule Team Borax, around since 1891.

photo of box of 20 Mule Team BoraxBorax is a naturally occurring mineral salt composed of boron, sodium, oxygen, and water. It functions as a water softener, fabric softener, deodorant, and mild bleach. I add 2 – 4 tablespoons of it to a load when I face especially challenging laundry. (Or apply a paste of it to the stubborn spot.)

Is it perfect?

No.

But it′s helpful to have a stronger benign option in my tool kit.

The Well-Tempered Clavier

Sandbeck compares a happy home to J.S. Bach′s harpsichord after it has been tuned by the method he invented. No one key is perfectly in tune, but all are sufficiently so to sound good. Compromises must be made. (The method before Bach′s invention resulted in one key perfectly in tune and the rest decidedly out of tune.)

Sandbeck says: ″Most people are happiest and at ease in homes that are moderately clean and neat. Both extremes . . . tend to make people unhappy and uncomfortable.″ Also: ″The well-tempered house should be just neat and clean enough to make both the neatest person and the sloppiest person in the household just a tiny bit dissatisfied.″

Sounds fair to me!

* * *

Those are my three favorite snippets from Green Housekeeping, but the book′s packed with tips. Your favorites will likely be different than mine, since homes vary as much as their inhabitants. I invite you to find yours!

Green Housekeeping at Amazon

Green Housekeeping at B&N

Berry+ at reuseit.com

Soap Nuts at NaturOli

For more on green living, see:
Grass Green
Great Soap & Etcetera Quest
Wrapping with Cloth

 

Our Universe is Amazing

curved spacetime on a black fieldBrian Greene’s The Elegant Universe is my favorite non-fiction read. I’ve traveled its pages only three times thus far, because its concepts give my brain a workout. The prose is elegant (like our universe!) and accessible, but understanding the physical underpinnings of the cosmos is not something I do easily. I labor. And, yet, by book’s end, I feel like I’ve been peeking over the shoulder of the divine, granted a view of miracle. That’s worth some effort!

Greene starts with an entertaining overview of Einstein’s principles of special relativity and general relativity. I grin through this section, because his examples are amusing. In my latest perusal, I noticed a nugget about how we navigate spacetime that had previously escaped either my notice or my memory. (Amidst all the other wonders presented.)

Time Travel

We are always in motion, even when sitting still, both because we traverse time and because our planet whooshes ever onward around our sun, around our galaxy, and across the universe. However, Einstein’s principles of relativity allow me to declare myself as still in space when occupying my armchair reading The Elegant Universe.

When I’m not sitting and reading (or sitting and writing!), I’m moving through both space and time. Compared with the speed of light – 670 million mph – I’m traversing space very slowly, at 1 or 2 mph when I’m strolling in the garden, 25 mph driving down a residential street, or 300 mph jetting through the sky. But guess what? I’m traveling through the dimension of time very fast. At the speed of light, in fact! Of course, so is everything and everyone around me. So I don’t notice my speed!

Wow! I’d like to see Greene explore the ramifications more thoroughly, but he’s a man on a mission with a lot of conceptual ground to cover. His purpose is not to dance in Einstein’s preserve, but to connect superstring theory to it. He continues through the history of physics and into the paradox arising between the rules governing the macrocosm and those governing the microcosm. When physicists want to understand black holes or the moment of the big bang, they cannot, because these conditions require both general relativity and quantum mechanics. Which do not mix! Superstring theory proposes a solution for the paradox.

Superstrings Calm the Quantum Foam

When we think about the smallest particles that make up the physical universe – electrons and quarks – we consider them to be points that have no height or width or depth. They are dimensionless.

This way of thinking causes problems.warped and tattered grid representing quantum spacetime

It means we must deal with quantum tunneling. At a sufficiently small size, many of the usual rules of the universe no longer pertain. Gravity? Nope. Cause and effect? Gone. Knowing where and when? Farewell certainty.

Envisioning the smallest particles as strings rather than dimensionless points solves these problems in two ways.

First, the strings of superstring theory have length. They are loops of about the Planck length. “What is the Planck length?” you ask. It is very small: a millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter. Greene gives us an analogy: if one atom were the size of the entire known universe, the Planck length would be the height of an average tree!

Very small, indeed, but NOT zero. Which means that we cannot probe physical reality below a certain size. Below the Planck length, in fact. Because nothing is smaller than that. In a sense it doesn’t exist.

And the quantum foam, where the rules of the universe go awry, exists mathematically only at scales smaller than the Planck length. But if we know the fundamental blocks of matter – strings – are too big to fit into the mathematical quantum foam, then all matter remains within a spacetime where the usual rules apply.

That is one way of looking at the issue. Superstring theory also gives us a second way.

In the Grandstands for an Event

Consider two particles traveling at high speed that collide, say an electron and a positron (an electron’s antimatter counterpart).

The particles collide and are annihilated, releasing energy as a photon. The photon travels some while and then releases it energy, transforming into two particles that go their separate ways.

an electron and a positron collideA physicist’s diagram of the event would like like this.

 

And here’s the difficulty: Einstein’s relativity principles state that different observers would not agree about exactly when and where the two particles collided. When considering point particles, that truth seems impossible.

Which is it?

This?an electron and a positron collide

 

Or this?an electron and a positron collide with different details

 

How can it be both?

 

Now consider how it looks if the particles are strings.diagram of 2 strings colliding

 

One person might see the collision like this, at a certain time and place.an observer sees the collision at one place and time

 

While another might see it like this, at a different time and place.another observer sees the collision at a different place and time

 

No paradox at all. The quantum foam (which is paradox) has smoothed out.

Greene goes on to discuss the further wonders of superstring theory: Calabi-Yau spaces and their transformations, M-theory, and the striking similarity between black holes and strings. It’s an incredible romp through the foundations of physical reality. Greene leaps from marvel to marvel, ending with the tantalizing possibility that superstring theory might allow us humans to graze the ultimate why.

I’ll be re-reading The Elegant Universe every few years . . . when my brain is ready to stretch and work!

The Elegant Universe at Amazon

The Elegant Universe at B&N

The Elegant Universe as an ebook at Kobo

For more cool science trivia, see:
Sol
Water
Anatomy of a Pitch

 

Grass Green

cover of the book Pasture PerfectJo Robinson’s Pasture Perfect is an accessible, entertaining introduction to the concepts underpinning “grassfarming.” She starts with an amusing anecdote from her first talk given in front of 500 ranchers. At the close of her presentation, before the questions, she announced that she’d put together a little book titled Why Grassfed Is Best! (the precursor to Pasture Perfect). The auditorium emptied rapidly. She carried on, answering questions gamely, and wondering. Did her audience want to be first in line at the buffet dinner? Nope.

There’d been a stampede on the table where her little book was stacked for sale. Literally. Impatient with a line of 50-plus, ranchers began grabbing books, tossing their money down, making their own change. They were that eager for her information. And she’d not brought enough books!

Ms. Robinson takes us on a tour of a pasture-based farm. The air smells of grass and green. A ring of habitat for wildlife encircles the fields. The grass is lush and mixed with clover, alfalfa, and wild plants. The cattle are peaceful, moving slowly within their generous enclosure. Chickens share the paddock. It’s a pleasant spot, nourishing to the animals, welcoming to humans.

Then the author gets down to the nitty gritty: the health benefits of grass-fed meats.

Less fat. Animals eating grain get fat. Grass-fed meat has the same amount of fat as wild game or chicken breast without skin.

Fewer calories. If you eat a 6-ounce beef loin from a grass-fed cow, you’ll consume 92 fewer calories than if you eat one from a feedlot cow. That adds up over time.

More omega-3’s. People low on omega-3’s are more vulnerable to cancer, depression, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, and dementia. Grass-fed meats have 2 to 10 times more omega-3’s than feedlot meats.

Omega-3’s and omega-6’s in balance. Both these fatty acids are essential, but we need the right blend. Omega-6’s encourage blood to clot. Omega-3’s cause it to flow easily and smoothly. What’s the right ratio of 6’s to 3’s? There’s some debate about it. Probably no more than 4:1, possibly as low as 1:1. Grass-fed beef has ratios between 1:1 and 3:1. Feedlot beef ranges from 5:1 to 14:1. ‘Nuff said!

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). The research is preliminary, but CLA may help us resist cancer and heart disease. Grass-fed ruminants have 2 to 5 times as much CLA in their meat as feedlot ruminants.

Vitamin E. It’s an important anti-oxidant, protecting us from free radicals, boosting immunity, preventing heart disease. Grass-fed beef has 3 to 6 times more than feedlot beef.

Carotenoids. Fresh pasture provides hundreds of times more of these anti-oxidants than does feedlot mush, with the result that beta carotene and other carotenoids show up in quantity in grass-fed meat. The benefits of eating carotenoids include lower risk of cataracts and macular degeneration (a leading cause of blindness).

Ms. Robinson also gives us the scoop on milk and eggs.

The milk from grazing cows has 5 times the CLA of conventionally fed dairy cows. The ratio of omega-6’s to omega-3’s is 1:1. The levels of beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E are all much higher.

The eggs from pasture-raised chickens (who eat grass, wild greens, and insects) show similar benefits. A ratio of 6’s to 3’s of 1:1, instead of 20:1. More vitamin A. But you don’t need a chemistry set to analyze the health of an egg. Conventional eggs have lemony pale yolks, while those from pastured hens show a deep, orangey yellow.

Best of all: pastured meat, milk, and eggs just taste better. The New York Times food editors reported free-range poultry as “flavorful and juicy” and that it “had a tender but meaty texture.”

Corby Krummer in The Atlantic Monthly said, “Grass-fed beef tastes better than corn-fed beef; meatier, purer, far less fatty.”

And Sam Guigino in Wine Spectator declares a grass-based strip steak “delicious, rich and full-flavored.”

The last chapter in Pasture Perfect tells us how and where to acquire these healthy and delicious pasture-raised foods. And 60 pages of recipes cap things off.

This was a life-changer for me. The nutritional differences between feedlot meat and grass-fed meat are not trivial. Good health versus poor may well lie in the balance. I had already connected with a local dairy farmer. I wanted nourishing milk for my 2-year-old twins! Now it was time to locate healthy meat and healthy eggs.

I’m lucky, because Virginia has a long tradition of family farms. My region is a focal point for the growing movement toward local food. Once I opened my eyes, there were dozens of neighboring farms that could supply my table. Like some of the people quoted in Pasture Perfect, I’m a bit spoiled now. Conventionally raised just doesn’t taste right!

Pasture Perfect at Amazon

Pasture Perfect at B&N

For more about nutrition, see:
Test first, then conclude!
Yogurt & Kefir & Koumiss, Oh My!

For more on green living, see:
Permaculture Gardening
Running Mushrooms
Going Up in Smoke?

 

Great Soap & Etcetera Quest

hieroglyph of amcient EgyptQueens of ancient Egypt outlined their eyes with kohl made from sulfide of antimony. Roman matrons rouged their cheeks with cinnabar, red mercury. Elizabethan nobles painted their faces with white lead. Victorian women swallowed arsenic to improve their complexions and drops of belladonna to dilate their eyes.

Learning these facts as a child, I developed considerable scorn for cultures of the past and their use of poisonous substances in the quest for personal beauty and hygiene. “Of course, they didn’t know any better,” I reminded myself.

Who would have dreamed that my attitude would reverse itself? At least the kohl worn by all the Egyptians who were not queens – made with lead sulfide, instead of antimony – actually protected them from eye infections. While modern concoctions . . . are not nearly so safe as we imagine. And we do know better!

Where did my change of attitude start? Strangely, with the flap about bisphenol A. My children were very young at the time, and we had plastics galore in our household. Little ones drop so many things. Surely plastic was safer than risking tender feet cut by broken glass. Well, it wasn’t; not if the plastic contained BPA, or maybe even if it didn’t. I read up on plastic and discovered that the reason it flexes the way it does is because each molecule of plastic physically slides past the others. And in the sliding process, some of the molecules are shed like skin flakes. When we eat foods stored in plastic, we eat a little of the plastic along with the food. Hmm.

I replaced all the plastic juice glasses with glass mugs. (The handles would help small fingers keep a grip.) Our tupperware and rubbermaid received the ax likewise. Canning jars and a few Pyrex containers worked just fine for storing cheese, homemade yogurt, and leftovers. Bed, Bath & Beyond even carried some inexpensive glass pitchers (with covers) for tea and milk. Good. We were set.

Except then I got to wondering . . . what else do I take for granted as safe when it isn’t? What about soap and shampoo and chapstick?

My first forays into research turned up cause for concern, but not much solid information. I decided to try the “organic” products carried by the local health food store. That was a disaster. The soap dried my skin and irritated it. The lotions were no better at moisturizing those dry hands than were conventional ones – that is, no good. And the shampoos resulted in a scalp that actually bled. Hmm again.

cover image of book about the dangers of conventional toiletriesI returned to conventional products, while I did more thinking. Not much in the way of solutions came to me . . . but, eventually, I stumbled upon a little lilac-colored book: Dying to Look Good by Christine Hoza Farlow. It was still thinner on specific solutions than I wanted, but it sure gave me motivation to try again. My conventional soaps, shampoos, and lip balm were chemical cocktails of carcinogens. And the health food store versions were often little better. They just used a different chemical cocktail!

Besides providing motivation, the book also led me to the Environmental Working Group and their Skin Deep cosmetics database. I was skeptical at first. I’d already been burned by the health food stores. Would this be any better?

It was.

The database lists every single ingredient in each product it includes, and it includes a lot of products, some with ingredient lists so simple that the words are all in English, utterly bare of incomprehensible chemical terms. Those were the products I decided to try.

And I got lucky.

photo of Terressentials hair washTerressentials’ hair wash, made with bentonite clay, was a beautiful thing for my hair and scalp. I’ve always had a twitchy scalp, prone to take offense at the slightest slight and throw out a patch of eczema. Apparently, the vast majority of shampoos – conventional and alternative – have ingredients that were causing my eczema. My longtime favorite also had ingredients that relieved it. But that’s crazy! To have irritant and remedy bundled together. My scalp has been calm over the last two years, ever since I slathered it in coconut oil (to soothe the damage done by the earlier experiments) and adopted the clay hair wash. (It’s not soap, and it doesn’t foam, but it does clean.)

photo of Bubble & Bee lip balmsTerressentials’ lip balm was another success, although it gets a little melty in the summer. But Bubble & Bee’s lip balm tends to be too stiffly solid in the winter. So I use both, the stiff one in hot weather, the melty one in cold.

photo of Bubble & Bee's body butterBubble & Bee’s body butter became the first lotion to ever have a lasting effect on dry scaliness of my feet (sorry for the TMI), and it’s pretty nice on hands, elbows, and knees too. Soft, properly moist skin is the result.

photo of African alata soap by SheAyurvedicsPure castile soap from the Blue Ridge Soap Shed doesn’t undo all the good work of that body butter. And, hey, it’s local too! It’s become my husband’s favorite soap, but I prefer something even more moisturizing: African Alata soap by SheAyurvedics. They’re both good. (ETA 2015: SheAyurvedics appears to have gone out of business, alas.)

photo of Bubble & Bee deodorantI’d had adventures with deodorants and anti-perspirants several decades ago and was leery of re-opening that can of worms. But my success with all the other toiletries, and especially with shampoo (the most unpleasant of all my cosmetic adventures) gave me courage to try again. I ordered up Bubble & Bee’s lemongrass deodorant. That proved a little too lemony for my taste, but it certainly did a fine job without irritating my skin. My husband had decided on their super pit putty, and we ended by swapping. He liked mine better, I liked his. Just recently I decided to branch out a little and purchased some lime geranium. Now my only difficulty is that I can’t decide which I like best. Both smell so nice! It’s a good problem to have.

Two toiletries still remain begging solutions.

I hadn’t used soap on my face for years, but the gentle cleanser resting beside the bathroom sink contained questionable ingredients. My problem: nearly all the alternatives have actual soap in them. And even a mild soap is too strong for my face. The one soap-free alternative I could find also has a questionable ingredient in it: grapefruit seed extract. The extract itself is harmless, but unless it is supplied by Nutribiotics, it may be contaminated by triclosan and methyl paraben or benzethonium chloride (all big baddies).

Since the main ingredient of my one alternative was vegetable glycerin, I decided to buy that one ingredient straight up and try it. I’m finding it acceptable, but still not quite right. I’ll probably start the quest again at some point. Just not yet!

Toothpaste is my other wild child. I’m currently using one of the SLS-free Tom’s of Maine formulations, but I’m not keen on its plastic container! I’ve tried homemade: arrowroot powder mixed with a few drops of food grade mint extract. That actually was very satisfactory, but messy. I may go back to it, now that my children are older. They can handle messy these days!

So why am I telling you all these rather personal details? (Too much information, with a vengeance!) Mainly because I really wanted to find a blog post just like this 3 years ago when I embarked on my great toiletries quest. I would have been spared a bleeding scalp and a lot of aggravation. Since I didn’t find this blog post (paradoxical time travel, anyone?), I’m creating it in the hope of sparing you irritation and aggravation! Luck!

UPDATE April 2015: I discovered a mild facial cleanser that works for me – Nourish Organic Moisturizing Cream Hand Wash – and blogged about it here. I’m currently using JASON toothpaste. The tube is made of plastic (alas), but I feel confidant of the ingredients in the paste.

Dying to Look Good at Amazon

Dying to Look Good at B&N

Hair Wash at Terressentials

Lip Balm at Terressentials

Lip Balm at Bubble&Bee

Body Butter at Bubble&Bee

Deodorant at Bubble&Bee

Castile Soap at the Blue Ridge Soap Shed

For more on green living, see:
Bandanna Gift Wrap
Waste-Free Lunch
Green Housekeeping

 

Permaculture Gardening

Photo of a lush garden.First, I have a confession to make. I read Gaia’s Garden and was so impressed I immediately started a to-do list of chores for my own garden. But that’s not the confession. It is this: just as I was gathering materials and gearing up to create my first sheet mulch, I took an unfortunate and ill-timed bicycle ride and broke my foot! Perhaps you see where this is going. The break was a bad one, but not bad enough for surgery and pins, so I was bed-ridden all last summer and on crutches all last fall and in physical therapy all last winter. In other words, I have not yet done a single one of those garden chores. But I’m going to tell you three cool things from the book anyway!

Before I go further, Gaia’s Garden is written by Toby Hemenway and introduces home gardeners to permaculture and how to use its principles on their land. Now for those three things.

plans for three gardens: vegetable plot, raised beds, keyhole gardenGarden Topology Matters

Consider the time-honored, conventional vegetable plot. The plants in it are useful, yes, and their color and the texture of their foliage, beautiful. But now look at those rows and the paths between them. Not only are they visually uninspiring, but they waste a lot of space! We can do better.

What about raised beds with paths threaded between wider blocks of plants? Definitely an improvement, but we can do better still.

Now evaluate the keyhole garden. The amount of ground devoted to paths shrinks further, and the space for plants burgeons. There are other shapes taken from nature that conserve fertile soil: the herb spiral, branching systems, and nets or mesh patterns. They’re all worth keeping in our palette when we design the layout of our gardens.

 

Sheet Mulch is Efficient

Nearly every gardener can wax lyrical on the value of compost. It replenishes the soil with mineral wealth. It improves the soil’s texture, building humus, the light and fluffy component that holds moisture and nutrients for the questing roots of plants.

But compost heaps are a lot of work: building them, turning them, watering them, and then carting the whole kit-and-kaboodle to the actual garden plot. And there’s another disadvantage. Soil organisms – bacteria, fungi, and amoebae – are just as important to plant well-being as the minerals and other nutrients in the soil. A thriving fungal mat might extend across an entire back yard or even further. But all that turning and forking and moving needed by a compost pile disrupts and destroys these microscopic helpers.

Just as with garden topology, there is a better way – an easier way! Mulch in place. It’s done in two steps. First lay down a thick layer of newspaper or cardboard to suppress weeds. Be sure to overlap the edges by at least 6 inches. (Weed shoots can really travel to reach a gap! Don’t leave any.) Then top that layer with a foot of bark or straw or grain hulls or sawdust or wood chips. Anything that used to be a plant, basically. And don’t be timid about the amount. This layer needs to be thick. Then wet the whole thing down and let it sit.

Fall is a great time to sheet mulch. The bed will be ready to plant in spring. What if it’s already spring and you want to try this now? All is not lost. Build your sheet mulch and then create small pockets in the sheet, about 3 inches deep. Fill the pockets with soil and compost, and plant your seeds. (Somewhat deeper pockets can be used for seedling plants.)

What will you have once your sheet mulch decomposes? Lovely, humusy soil packed with nutrients along with a tide of earthworms and millipedes and beneficial mites and fungi teeming both in the decomposed mulch and a good foot underneath. Your garden will thrive.

The Apple Guild

Among permaculture practitioners, a “plant guild” is a community of plants and animals living in a pattern of mutual support. It is often centered around one major species. And it benefits humans while also creating habitat. Plant guilds are more complex than companion planting (such as placing marigolds between broccoli rows to keep insect pests away). Plant guilds are more comprehensive than polycultures (such as growing rice and fish and ducks together).

Plant guilds attempt to borrow some of the resilience and robustness of plant communities found in Mother Nature herself. Most plant guilds are local, derived or deduced from the unique soil, climate, and species found in a specific region. But there are a few “universal guilds” that are likely to thrive in much of a continent. One of these is the apple guild.

plan of garden centered on a fruit treeAt its center grows an apple tree, although any fruit tree (or even a small nut tree) could work. Any size fruit tree – standard, semi-standard, semi-dwarf, dwarf, or mini-dwarf – may be chosen, but a larger tree will support more associated plants than a small one.

A ring of thickly planted bulbs grows at the drip line of the tree. You might choose daffodils to discourage depredations by gophers and deer. Or you might choose something edible: camas or alliums such as garlic, garlic chives, or wild leeks. (Don’t mix daffs with edible bulbs, because daff bulbs are poisonous. You wouldn’t want to risk a mistake.) Either choice will keep grasses from invading your guild.

Within the ring of bulbs is an assortment of plants that attract bees and birds, make mulch, pull nutrients deep underground to the root zone, and fix nitrogen in the soil.

A dotted circle of comfrey is the most multi-functional among these. Its purple blossoms attract beneficial insects. Its deep roots pull potassium and other minerals upward into its leaves, which can be used to infuse a medicinal tea and to create a fertilizing mulch. (Slash the comfrey back 4 or 5 times during the summer and let it fall in place as mulch.)

A couple of robust artichoke plants are interspersed with the comfrey. Their spikey roots restore soil tilth and fluffiness. The plants yield food: the artichokes. And their leaves contribute to the natural mulch.

Dotted throughout the circle of the guild are bursts of yarrow, trailing nasturtiums, and the umbels of dill and fennel. Yarrow is a nutrient accumulator, making nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and copper available. It is also an insectory, attracting ladybugs, hoverflies, and parasitic wasps (that eat the larvae of pests such as borers and coddling moths). Dill and fennel attract these beneficial insects plus lacewings, and they are edible.

A dense carpet of white clover laps between all the plants along with a sprinkling of dandelion, chicory, and plantain, giving the guild plenty of nitrogen-fixing (the clover) plus more nutrient accumulators. (Chicory yields potassium and calcium; dandelion adds magnesium, iron, copper, and silicon to the mix; plantain, manganese and sulfur.)

The apple guild is a dynamic system with most of its members playing multiple roles and immensely lightening the work load on its human caretaker.

Two years before I read Gaia’s Garden, my husband and I planted an apricot and a pair of cherry trees in our backyard. One cherry succumbed to the nibbling of deer, and we replaced it. The other trees survived. This spring, the apricot showed the beginning of fruit on its branches! We hope to harvest a few for the first time this summer. But I still cherish that list inspired by this book. And I wonder: what might we see after we sheet mulch the ground surrounding the fruit trees? What eden spot might evolve when daffodils, comfrey, coriander, dandelions, and clover are growing in lush circles below the fruiting branches? I hope to find out.

Gaia’s Garden at Amazon

Gaia’s Garden at B&N

For more green living concepts, see:
Green Housekeeping
Running Mushrooms
Grass Green

For more cool science trivia, see:
Water

 

Water

cover of book, The Big Thirst; image of flowing waterLast summer I read The Big Thirst by Charles Fishman. The book was fascinating, and I highly recommend it. But perhaps your TBR list is already too full. To pique your interest, I’ll share three cool facts I learned.

There are oceans in the sky!

The vast spaces between galaxies hold a thin gauze of hydrogen gas left over from events following the big bang. Supernovas hurl oxygen (and all the other elements) out into the universe to mingle with the hydrogen. All sorts of interesting things can happen then.

But in some reaches of the universe, what is happening is water. The oxygen and the hydrogen are combining to make good ole H2O in quantities that stagger the imagination, quantities so immense that these cosmic oceans dwarf a droplet the size of our planet – like all Earth’s oceans dwarf the dewdrop on a dawn spiderweb.

That’s more water than I can imagine!

Earth’s mantle is wet!

Twenty to thirty miles beneath the soil under our feet is Earth’s mantle. The rock of the mantle is not truly molten, but plastic. Perhaps a bit like hot toothpaste? (No, I’m not a geologist!) And chemically attached to all that hot, squodgy rock is water.

Serpentinites are hydrated mantle rocks that have surfaced enough to cool and lose their plasticity.

But down in the mantle itself, the plastic rock flows and moves, taking the bound water along in its currents. And just as there is a water cycle on our crust’s surface – lakes and streams and rivers evaporating to form clouds and then falling back to earth – so there is a water cycle between the mantle and the lower reaches of the crust. Water flows out of the mantle into the crust; water flows out of the crust into the mantle. And there is far, far more water in the mantle than there is flowing on and through the crust.

When water is too clean, it’s dangerous!

Water attracts. That’s why it does such a great job cleaning, even without soap. Dirt and debris stick to it and get swept away. Drinking water is actually pretty dirty, but that’s a good thing. I’ll tell you why in a bit.

Water for cleaning computer chips is clean. Really, really clean. It has to be. One tiny speck of dust left on a computer chip will interrupt the thin filament through which electricity runs, and the chip won’t work. So the water is filtered through 49 steps (give or take a few – I’m not a microchip engineer either!) to make sure it is ultra pure. And it cleans the microchips beautifully.

If you drank it, it would also clean you! The calcium you need for your bones would be swept out of you with the ultra pure water. Likewise the many other minerals your body needs. Perhaps one glass wouldn’t do too much damage, but a regular dose . . . not good!

A water engineer at one of the microchip plants reported that he stuck his tongue in a glass of ultra pure water. (Note: don’t try this at home!) He said it tasted very, very bitter.

The ultra pure water is actually categorized as hazardous waste. And it needs to be. In fact, in places where drinking water is supplied by dirty water cleaned through three or four stages of filtering, dust and minerals have to be added back in. The water isn’t ultra pure, but it’s still too clean to taste good. Our water has to be just the right amount of dirty!

There’s much more in The Big Thirst than that however. Go check it out!

(The links are for your convenience only. Do consider checking your local library. That’s where I found the copy I read.)

The Big Thirst at B&N

The Big Thirst at Amazon

For more cool science trivia, see:
Our Universe Is Amazing
Running Mushrooms

For green living concepts, see:
Permaculture Gardening

 

Sol

photo of solar flareThis winter I read The Sun’s Heartbeat by Bob Berman and found it fascinating. I’m going to share three tidbits I learned, in hope that they will pique your interest. Old Sol seems so steady and unchanging as he crosses our skies, but there’s a lot more to him than I dreamed.

Evolved by Sunlight

Across the entire electromagnetic spectrum – from ultraviolet through visible light to infrared – the sun’s peak emission is green! And the reason our eyes see visible light
and not, for example, x-rays is because visible light is the vast majority of the sun’s emissions.

If I were trying to find my lost keys by perceiving x-rays, I’d be a long time searching. There aren’t many x-rays bouncing off of anything. And that’s how we see: by photons bouncing off of things. There are lots of visible light photons bouncing off of everything.

Our eyes are essentially sun created!

Photons Have a Long Journey

The nuclear fusion powering our sun releases energy mostly as gamma rays and x-rays, deadly radiation. So how is it that Earth receives mostly lovely light and heat, not lethal ultraviolet?

Well . . . as the photons of the gamma rays (and x-rays) leave the sun’s core, they smash into the rest of the sun’s atoms. The first layer of smashed atoms absorbs the energy and then re-emits it as more photons. Those photons bump into the next layer of atoms. Those atoms do the same thing as the inner ones: absorb and re-emit. It’s a cascade, beginning deep within the sun and radiating outward through the plasma. Of course, with each BUMP, some of the energy stays behind, meaning that by the time a photon reaches the surface, its energy has been ramped ever downward, from ultraviolet down to visible light or even lower
to just heat (infrared).

No one knows the truth of how long it takes a photon to travel from the sun’s core to its surface. (I think the scientists are just guessing!) Some say a “mere” 15 thousand years. Others say 1 million! Either way . . . a photon has a long journey!

Once a photon reaches the surface and blasts off into space, it shows its true dashing nature, racing along at the speed of light. It takes only 8 minutes and 19 seconds to reach Earth.

The Little Ice Age

The dark, cooler patches – known as sun spots – that appear on the sun are accompanied by brighter, hotter spots. Thus when the sun has lots of sun spots, it also has lots of bright spots and emits its maximum energy.

Normally sun spots come and go on a regular 11-year cycle. Their numbers rise swiftly to a peak population, then slowly fall. But sometimes this rhythm
is disrupted.

From 1645 to 1715, there were virtually no sun spots. (Yes, the scientists of the day were already studying sun spots!) Europe got colder, the winters grew more severe. There were crop failures and famines. Disease was rampant. The northern lights disappeared for 50 years.

Who knew that Old Sol rules Earth so thoroughly?! One seemingly small wobble, and our neighborhood changes dramatically!

There is much more than these morsels in The Sun’s Heartbeat, however. Check it out for yourself.

(The links below are for your convenience. Do consider looking in your local library. That’s where I found the book I read.)

The Sun’s Heartbeat at B&N

The Sun’s Heartbeat at Amazon

For more about our sun and how facts about it inspired one of my stories, see:
The Heliosphere

For more cool science trivia, see:
Our Universe Is Amazing
Water