Icelandic volcanoes, poppies, visualising science

The title says it all. More random ruminations and recent links.

Great blog on Icelandic volcanoes and earthquakes— where I’ll go to check on Katla in future months.

Poppies– why are they used to commemorate Armistice Day, as opposed to any other flower?

Most people know that it was because poppies grew in profusion on many World War 1 battlefields, as popularised by Canadian doctor, soldier and poet, John McCrae:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


But why poppies specifically? The answer is because the corn poppy is a ruderal species widespread in northern Europe. It uses strategies such as rapid growth, massive seed production and seed dormancy to allow rapid colonisation of disturbed soil. A weed, in other words— but one perfectly adapted to growing in shell-battered landscapes, and one of the early contributors to the process of secondary succession, which ends in the restoration of a complex and diverse climax community in the local ecosystem.

Sometimes a little extra knowledge serves to enrich the symbolism.

Finally, a great visualisation of the connections and information flow between scientific disciplines (by way of citation patterns):
Make your own here.

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