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The magic of science


During my job as an environmental consultant, I never researched the supernatural. Yet, I had an odd sense of déjà vu when I opened an encyclopedia about fairies recently. Just like my ecology books, it discussed distribution, habitat, food habits, identification, and other bits of life history. But it also included each fairy’s magical abilities. That wasn’t in my wildlife texts. And I want to know why not!

Because animals do have traits that seem magical to humans. A dog’s ability to smell and hear outstrips ours. Fishers can swallow porcupine quills without harm. Honeybees use ultraviolet vision to follow flower markings, invisible to us, toward the blossom’s pollen and nectar. Geckos defy gravity because each foot’s toe pads are covered with bristles so small that they cling to the ceiling’s very molecules. And a recent scientific study found that western diamondback rattlesnakes survive in the desert by catching rainwater on their intricately grooved scales.

How do we know so much about these marvels? Through the work of scientists. And that’s why I love both literature and science: each creates its own type of magic. Writers spin fantastic tales from their imaginations. Scientists uncover the truths of the universe, which are as strange as any magic, and use them to invent wondrous technologies. So thank you to all the authors, researchers, engineers, and inventors out there. The world is and will be a better place because of your unique vision.

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