Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fungus Among-us: Natures Fungi, by Sharon Powell

Photograph by: Sharon Powell

Strolling through the woods or nearby forest can become an afternoon filled with nature and the mysteries surrounding the world of “Fungi.” For many years scientists from around the globe have studied the natural wonders involved with “Mycology.”  Although there are 1.5 million fungal species known today, only 80,000 or so have been properly documented.

When gazing upon what appears to be a pile of “slimy goo,” you just may have stumbled upon a patch of “Yellow Brain Fungus”, or perhaps the reddish brown lobes of the “Jelly Leaf.” Although it may look a bit frightening, chances are the fungi are harmless, and in many cases edible. There are more species of fungal matter than the eye can behold, and many are found in famous restaurants and serve a special purpose within the world of culinary perfection. When hunting for mushrooms, "foresters" are the best people to identify various species of mushroom.  Foresters can assure your selections are not poisonous.

Fungus among Us
Many people ask; what purpose do fungi serve?  Or, perhaps what makes it so important to our environment? Searching for mushrooms has been an ancient practice shared by early Egyptians and foresters alike. In fact, mushrooms were a daily staple supporting their nutritional needs. Unbelievably the silly shapes and bold colors found in many fungi species are used as flavoring in food, or provide the necessary reaction needed in alcohol production, antibiotics and medicines. Some brands of cheese and yeast products contain fungal matter. Try to imagine consuming a loaf of molded bread or roll without the reaction created by yeast fungi.

Biological Order
Fungi are everywhere and also provide a very important function into the “natural order” of vegetation and forestland. Most importantly, fungal matter maintains the biological balances of nature and helps to breakdown “grimy soil and vegetation” as enzymes are produced. Through a complex system of biological process the enzymes work to breakdown the masses of over vegetation. And in fact, provide the forest with the natural ability to preserve itself while protecting wooded areas from being choked to death.

Some species of fungi are destructive and can cause considerable damage, such as the one shown on this month’s cover issue. “Tinder Polypore or Hoof Fungus” is commonly found in wooded areas and can attack healthy or dead trees. Parasitic fungi are referred to as “Necrotrophs.” “Necrotrophs” contain yeast like “cells or toxins” that destroy the hosts water and nutrient systems. The hoofed appearance develops from infected wood attacking the water and root systems of broad-leafed trees. Other fungi such as “Biotrophic’s” may not always kill the plant, but can “alter the life processes” while infecting seeds and germination capabilities.

Fungi or mushrooms are either edible or non-edible, meaning many varieties are poisonous and can cause death or temporary sickness. Toxic or deadly mushrooms will attack the liver, kidney, blood, and central nervous system of the victim. Possible death can occur within six hours, or up to six days later. It is always a good idea to take along a sample of the mushroom if medical attention is needed.

In order for fungi to grow specific climate conditions must exist. Most all species of fungi much like the “Morel” pictured above prefer warm, or spring like conditions where high degrees of humidity and warm temperatures exist in order to enhance the growing process. Although there are some fungi that prefer cooler climates; humidity is a common factor within the development of most fungal species.

Now that you have learned some very important information into the world of fungi, you may find it to be a fascinating experience and an excellent way to pass the time when combing the nearby wooded areas.  You could be the first person to discover the latest or new species of fungi. Have fun, and be careful who you step on!  For more information on the fabulous world of fungi, visit your local library or internet search engines at

1.) Thomas Laessoe, Mushrooms, DK Publishing, Inc. London, 1998.
2.) Bettina Kaufmann, Nadja Bremse, Konemann Publishing, Germany, 1998.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Next Generation Bio-Fuels, by Sharon Powell


Next Generation Bio Fuels

By Sharon Powell


What are Bio Fuels? Are they things made from our environment?  Or perhaps a plant or animal! If you agree that both plants and fossils can produce energy you are absolutely correct! Although “Fossil Fuels” and “Bio Fuels” are made to produce energy, they are very different in comparison.

Bio Fuels are synthetic resources of energy.  By referring to the term “synthetic,” we simply mean that products are manufactured from other sources verses occurring naturally.  Bio Fuels are man-made resources of energy made from food, crops, grasses, wood, algae, garbage, sewage and manure.


Bio Fuels allow people to heat their homes, drive their car, or simply allow us to remain cool on hot summer days.  Some people might think energy is free, but the fact is in order to produce energy, other sources of energy are required in order to manufacture more.  As the world becomes more technologically advanced the price of energy continues to rise along with the research needed to help find cost effective ways for creating alternative fuels.


The greatest portion of energy consumed today is referred to as “Fossil Fuels,” and comes from plants and animals that died millions of years ago.  Resources were then buried beneath layers of rock and soil.  As time passed, atmospheric conditions and pressure reacted on the remains, creating an abundance of biological cells and gases, which are commonly referred to as “Bio Fuels” and “Fossil Fuels.”  There are three different types of “Fossil Fuels” commonly known as “Petroleum,” “Coal,” and “Natural Gas.”  Fossil fuels must be removed from the earth and can become costly to manufacture over time.  Removing fossil fuels from the ground can also have serious side effects on

the environment.  For instance, for every ton of coal mined today, there are also 25 tons of rock and earth removed during the process.  Other concerns are the chemicals that wash away into the soil, streams, and lakes. Mining these resources can have long-term effects on wild life and those depending upon the resources used for jobs and health issues.


Petroleum and natural Gas come from the ground and must be pumped from wells or land and sea. Mining “petroleum” is found to be the most dangerous to the environment due to the processes used for extracting it from the ground.  There have been a number of oil spills over the last few decades, costing millions of dollars for clean-up efforts and damages to wildlife species and the environment.

Fossil Fuels tend to create more pollution in comparison to bio fuels since “fossil fuels are burned” creating smog and pollutants in the air.  When fossil fuels are burned, they create greenhouse gases, which trap heat into the atmosphere causing the earth’s temperature to rise.  Technology and the hazards involved with fossil fuels have generated much controversy. Over the last few years, scientists have been focusing on alternative fuels, such as “Bio Fuels” as a means for producing ethanol.  “Bio fuels have proven beneficial in many ways, including reducing damages to the environment.  Bio fuels and Ethanol are produced from plants that capture energy from the sun and store it in their tissue as chemicals called “Hydrocarbons.”  “Hydrocarbons” take only a few months to grow inside the plant, where as “fossil fuels” took millions of years.  “Bio Fuels” can be “transformed into liquid fuel” and consumed in much the same way as fossil fuels. Ethanol can be mixed with fossil fuels to conserve and reduce the use of fossil fuels.


Ethanol is made from plants that are high in sugar content.  The sugar ferments and creates a type of alcohol which is referred to as “Ethanol.”  The Ethanol is then mixed with 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol, or a blend commonly referred to as E-85.  Researchers have found that “Bio Fuels help to reduce pollution and about half the amount of “carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and sulfur compounds that cause acid rain. Both forms of energy cause pollution, but Bio Fuels reduce the amount of pollution by nearly 75% of carbon dioxide when compared to diesel fuels.  Other benefits

of “Bio Fuels” are the non-toxic features noted and will easily break-down in the environment if spilled onto the ground. “Bio Fuels” are an excellent source for renewable forms of energy in today’s fast paced world.  Bio fuels are beneficial, but researchers have also noted the downsides with using “Bio Fuels” which play a significant part into the lives of future generations.”


Since “Bio Fuels” are grown strictly from plants, scientists are concerned with the amount of acreage and water required to produce the crops for production. Other concerns stress the hazards known to wildlife, who, are forced from their habitat in search of a new home.  Scientists and large corporations are working together to resolve some very important downsides to “Bio Fuel” production.  Large oil companies and environmental scientists are now focusing much of their research on the production of “Algae” as a major resource for producing “Bio Fuels.”  According to Exxon-Mobil, the benefits of “Algae” production are both sensible and cost effective.  Algae production conserves land use and saves wildlife species. The benefits also have long-term effects as scientists conclude “Bio Fuels” are “Photosynthetic Algae,” which have the potential to change the way future generations use energy resources.  Algae can also be grown using both land and water which are unsuitable for plant and food production. Lastly, “Algae” has the potential to yield greater volumes per single acreage, producing 2000 gallons of fuel per acre.  The use of “Algae” has been found to be cost effective, highly productive and can be grown quickly.


The future of “Bio-Oils from “Photosynthetic Algae” could manufacture a full range of fuels including gasoline, diesel fuels, and jet fuels that also meet the same specifications used in today’s products.  The future of Synthetic Genomics is a scientific breakthrough, in addition to being a second-generation or renewable form of bio fuel.  These forms of energy can have positive effects on the way future generations produce and consume energy.  Go, go green power……S. Powell, 2010






4.) Biofuels, Karen D. Povey, Thomson/Gale, Kidhaven Press, Farmington Hills, MI, 2007.

5.) Bio Fuels, Andrew Solway, M.A., Gareth Stevens Publishing, Pleasantville, NY, 2008.



Carnivorous Carnival

By Sharon Powell  

In order to understand the world of botany in relation to carnivorous plants, it is important to identify the meaning of the word. Carnivorous simply refers to plants that prey on animals for their survival. Carnivorous plants provide a unique balance of nature within the world and quite often help to reduce crop damage for farmers, and maintain a balance within insect populations.

The colorful shapes of the tropical pitcher can be an interesting edition to anyone’s garden. The total number of carnivorous species is somewhere between six to eight hundred different types.  Pitcher species are located in various regions throughout the world all offering a variety of color and size. The natural order of all carnivores is to trap their prey in order to provide a nutritious meat for digesting while supporting nutritional needs.

Carnivorous plants began to grow in greater numbers once the invention of the greenhouse took shape during the Roman Empire. Pitchers, and other exotic plants experienced increased growth during the 16th and 17th Centuries where elite members of society began cultivating the plants within controlled environments. Nurseries and breeding programs developed several plant species for show. Gardeners and anyone with a “green-thumb” would enter botanical contests in an effort to receive special recognition and monentary awards for their selections.


Carnivorous plant life can be found in various parts of the world. Depending upon the climate, many species can be enjoyed within the privacy of your own home or garden. The most important resource to the “Pitcher plant” is its climate and soil needs. Most pitchers require a certain type of soil which is crucial to its survival.  Soil requirements are often limited according to the geographical region. Soils such as, Pumice, Limestone, Lavarack, Perlite, Sand, and Vermiculite, which is commonly used for insulating much of the world’s consumer products and architectural designs make up the foundation of the Pitcher’s root system. Other “Pitcher” species require “Sphagnum Moss” and climates offering high degrees of humidity. Many pitchers are found growing wild within tropical climates, in addition to “mountainous terrains,” “hills,” and “Bogs” located throughout the world. Wild pitcher plants sprout in early spring, and are considered to be “perennial plants,” or, plants that live for many years.

Pictured above is the Nepenthes Northaiana. Although various species offer a variety of shapes and sizes, the “Northiana” is one of the largest species of pitchers and is in danger of becoming extinct. The magnificent plant grows on limestone covered surfaces where cliffs and tropical conditions are favored. The pitcher can reach heights of up to 14 inches and is uniquely colored with a reddish bronze “trap,” and “crimson colored leaf” surrounding its cornucopia shaped mouth. The lower portion of the plant is referred to as the “trap” and contains a thick and almost syrupy fluid where insects and other prey sink to the bottom and drown. The “trap” is also very important to the plants digestive system, and contain large quantities of “acidity and enzymes” which help dissolve prey. Pitchers are also able to re-absorb nutrition from the syrupy fluid allowing them to sustain life when prey becomes scarce. The Northiana feeds upon large insects including crickets, sow bugs, meal worms, and dried insects throughout the year.

Carnivorous plants are unique and very interesting editions to the world of botany. Their existence provides balance of nature within our environment and forestry resources. To learn more about the world of Carnivorous Botany contact your local library or go to………..S. Powell, 2011

1.) Peter D. Amato The Savage Garden, Cultivating Carnivorous Plants, Berkeley CA, Ten Speed Press, 1998.
2.)Densey Clyne, Plants of Prey, Milwaukee, WI, Gareth Sterns Publishing, 1998.
3.) Elaine Pascoe, Carnivorous Plants, Farmington Hills, MI, New York, NY, London, Munich, Detroit, San Francisco, New Haven, Watery E. Maine. Blackbirtch Press, 2005.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Think Before you Drink, by Sharon Powell

The most precious resources in the world are those many of us fail to appreciate, or consider when washing our hands, brushing our teeth, or simply watering the flower garden.  Think for a moment how our lives would change if our fresh water and lakes were threatened by disease causing a shortage in order to maintain our needs.  Where would we go?  Alternately, since every living organism requires water for survival, and outer space is not an option, all life forms would become extinct over time. 
     There are hundreds of bodies of water across the United States, but only fifty-seven major lakes and rivers exist within American soil.  Although there are more than seven hundred forty bodies of water on earth, many are of lesser value for sustaining human life when compared to fresh water.  Therefore, it is important for man to understand we are merely a visitor on earth when compared to nature and the environment.  It is crucial for us to preserve its natural beauty as much as possible.

Nature depends heavily upon rain and floods in order to decrease harmful bacteria and to wash away unnecessary elements posing a threat to plant and animal life.   When chemicals, or garbage such as plastic bottle or cans pollute our freshwater supply, we unconsciously threaten several life forms.  You might ask how harmful is a bottle or plastic bag to the environment?  Consider this!  When plastic bags or nets are left behind, fish and other life forms may become trapped inside and die.  When chemicals are dumped on land, they soak into groundwater supplies, where most all of our drinking water is conserved.  Chemicals cannot only affect our drinking water, but plant life is also damaged, creating difficulty for animals who feed off trees and forest life.  Environmentalists and government officials stress the importance of following the law when dumping refuse.  Strict regulations have been passed in order to maintain control of what could become a potentially dangerous situation for everyone. 

     Many forms of pollution occur from accidents, or disasters such as the Exxon Valdez Ocean liner, which struck a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska on March 24, 1989.  Eleven million gallons of crude oil leaked into the sea covering 1200 square miles of shoreline.  Before the oil could be contained with floating booms, thousands of fish and sea-life perished while 11,000 people were hired to clean and remove the oil from off the land and animals affected by the spill.

Scientist were unable to determine how many birds and mammals died in the spill, but it is estimated that approximately twenty whales died from eating fish containing crude oil, five thousand sea otters, half a million seabirds, and three-hundred harbor seals died before relief efforts were completed.  Many seabirds were coated with the thick oil, and required they be cleansed with soap and water before releasing them back into the wild.  This process sounds simple enough, but it can take more than two hours to clean oil from the feathers of one seabird or otter.

Protecting the environment and water supplies is everyone’s responsibility.  Doing your part to assure proper disposal of garbage is maintained is a sure way to say you care about life and the beauty found within it. 

1.) Donnelly, Andrew; Water Pollution, The Child’s World, Inc., 1999
2.) Bramwell, Martyn, Whitefield, Philip Dr., Ocean Watch, Protecting our Plant, Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Inc., 2001

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Marcus Cove, Only in my Dreams, by Sharon Powell

While traveling the southern part of Florida’s coastline, I stumbled upon a favorite vacation spot just a few hundred miles off shore. Nestled amongst massive palm trees and white sandy beaches, rests a tropical paradise off the coast of the Bahamas Island.

Commercial fishermen and several immigrants live year round on the island, while cruise ships and tourist boats transport wayfarers from afar, who, like many of us enjoy taking part in the excitement found within island retreats. Customarily, many of those living on the Island own or operate small businesses within the community, where an outlet for scavenger hunting and treasured keepsakes is found. Contemporary housing and business development are common sites on the Island, and small schools are randomly located throughout the island allowing permanent residents the resource for supporting family while enjoying the uniqueness of coastal lifestyles.

While visiting earlier this year, I discovered one of the most exciting retreats available on the island. Undoubtedly, large populations of island tourists flock to spend time within the privacy of “Marcus Coves.” Travelers from every part of the globe rely upon the “Coves” special features to provide a week-end of fabulous adventures, while relaxing in the splendor of “white sandy beaches” and warm sunshine.

While visiting “Marcus Cove,” I noticed cabins surrounded by beautiful landscapes, allowing guests to become a part of the natural habitat found within most tropical settings and marine life. The island also provides an explosive view of botanical Gardens revealing “bright red “rhododendron,” bursting with color, as we escape to enjoy the passive sides of life.

For those enjoying an afternoon for nature hikes, the Botanical Gardens quite frequently cater to the needs of wild life, and it is not uncommon to find the colorful “Morpho” butterfly, flit from flower to flower while feeding on sweet nectar hidden amongst fields of velvet “ spiderwort,” and endless fields of tall wheat grasses.” Gazing upon what was once a caterpillar’s homeland, the winged insect now soars freely throughout the sky.

Most inhabitants of the tropics are very differet when compared to those living amongst the hustle and bustle of inner-city life. On a calm day, one might hear the faint chatter of “love birds” conversing with a neighboring “Toucan.” Or, perhaps you’ll find yourself sitting quietly watching thundering tides rush inland; only to see them fade into the surface of the sand, leaving in its midst a puddle of white grain and salty earth while young children watch their dreams come to life with sand castle and moats of days gone by.

Finding time to relax, I stretched my arms out high above me; feeling the warmth of the sun cover my body like a warm blanket. I couldn’t help but notice the paleness of my skin turn colorful shades of pink and red; only to feel the “blistery” aftermath rest atop my nose by day’s end. Peering down before me I notice the sands “tickling sensation” distract me as almond colored grains of time squish outward between polished toes and sand bur. Briskly, I run the path stretched far along the coastline, while morning showers fall above me, quenching the heat from my body, only to cease as quickly as it came.

The days pass quickly on Marcus Cove, and finally, we “awe” within the stillness of a “setting sun” as it slowly descends upon endless tides, sleeping until the birth of anew shines its guiding light into tomorrow. Contemplating the splendor of the day, I find myself searching for shelter, while hunger suddenly overwhelms me. Scents of “fresh pineapple and white fish” sear slowly over hot coals, then, linger freely throughout the night air while our mouths thirst for more.

Quietly, we settle in by warm fires; enjoying the sweet goodness of chilled coconut. Heavenly “Rains” fill the “hollowed nut;” soon to become too heavy a burden for support. Falling freely to the ground they lie amongst the splendor of palm leaf, and evergreen twig for all to enjoy. The faint sounds of island drums linger in the distance, while flames of desire seek gifts from the “Huntress,” dancing in rhythmic time.

I treasure the memories cast deep within me, vowing to hide them from pagans view. I’ll savor the moments spent on Marcus Cove, and remember its beauty and gentleness. I’ll find it again someday, encased safely within the seeds of life, then, relive the memory of that blessed day…..S.Powell, 2009

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Komodo Dragons & Lizards of Legend, by Sharon Powell

KOMODO  DRAGON                                   FRILED NECKED LIZARD

For centuries, dragons have been a significant part of life for various cultures around the world. Greek mythology, Ancient, and Middle Eastern cultures have portrayed the creature as symbols of wisdom, possessing supernatural powers and clairvoyant tendencies. Depictions of dragons date as far back as 600 B.C. Many movie and film series have also used the dragon as a symbol of fear, portraying them as evil creatures able to destroy entire cities and towns with a single breath of fire.

 A Japanese film classic, “Godzilla” sparked interest for many science fiction buffs of the 50’s. The film made its way into theaters during 1954 and has never stopped impacting the movie and film industry craze. The film is based upon a giant dragon caught in a turbulent storm descending upon the shores of “Tokyo Bay.” The dragon later wounds and kills hundreds of citizens before university scientists discover a method to kill the evil monster. The original film version was a low budget sci-fi for Japanese film makers, but has since made its way into contemporary movie theaters featuring sequels to the 1954 “Godzilla” classic. Believing that contemporary dragons are the dinosaurs of the past remains an essential characteristic into the mystical genre involving the world of mythology.

Komodo Dragons
     Although there are several species of reptile existing today, the “Komodo Dragon” pictured above is a fierce predator within the animal kingdom and is recorded for being the largest of reptile species in existence. The largest Komodo ever recorded weighed 336 lbs. and measuring 10.3 ft. in length. The Komodo are serious predators when hungry and often engage in cannibalism, consuming young hatchlings when food is scarce. According to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Komodo Dragons are endangered species due to the excessive poaching by Bushman regarding alternate food sources the dragon depends upon for survival. Komodo dragons originate from the Islands of Indonesia, and Mediterranean regions. Although they are not territorial animals, adult dragons have been found to remain within the same area for several years. Records indicate the lifespan for an average Komodo in the wild is between 10 to 12 years. The oldest Komodo ever recorded survived in captivity for 24 years.

     Like all reptiles, Komodo dragons are cold-blooded creatures and must depend upon the ultra violet rays of the sun for warmth. Most reptile species prefer warm temperatures, and dry climates for basking in the sunlight in order to maintain moderate body temperatures throughout the day. Climates found within tropical settings provide the necessary relief from excessive heat. A temperate range for the Komodo is between 82 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures reaching higher than 108 F. are found to be lethal for the dragon. 

     Female species of Komodo dragons do not reach sexual maturity until 9 years of age, and 10 years for the male, so selecting a mate does not pose a problem during mating season. On average, there are three females for every male Komodo population. The male and female Komodo may spend hours hissing and wrestling about until blood is drawn. The male has very little problem overcoming the female in battle and will employ a flicking motion with his forked tongue to initiate courtship. Most Komodo unions are developed during the months of May and August and can last for weeks until actual mating occurs. Once consummation is complete, a “clutching” of eggs is released, usually within the earlier part of spring, or third and fourth months of every year. The dragon will release a “clutch” of between eighteen to thirty eggs, and will spend the remaining nine months incubating them within a dugout filled with twigs and soil for protection from other predators. Hatchlings weigh little more than 3.5 ounces when born and measure approximately 16” in length. Newborns will scurry about consuming insects and worms until larger animals can be digested.

Hunting and Food
     Komodo are serious carnivores and can consume up to 80% of their total body weight during one meal. Feasting upon Wild Boar, Deer, and Buffalo are a delight for the dragon and will often be shared among the komodo population. The dragons are also known for their keen hunting ability, depending upon chemical queues and visual advantages for locating food. According to James Murphy and Claudia Ciofi, Komodo Dragons, Biology and Conservation, the dragons are able to see approximately 986 ft., establishing them as a fierce hunters. Komodo draw upon chemical queues within their environment that are significant advantages to hunting for prey. Hostile and aggressive behaviors are also common among Komodo when food is scarce. Dragons will often engage in battle when defending their food source, wherefore, biting, hissing and tumbling about in order to overcome the challenges associated with survival.

     Komodo dragons are scavengers by nature, and will consume most of what is available during in gestation periods, including the bones, hoof, and hide of their prey. Dragons are equipped with a deadly row of serrated teeth, capable of acting like a large knife in order to slice and tear meat from the bone. If bitten by a Komodo, chances are you will not survive without quick medical attention. Bacteria contained within the dragon’s venom contain 54 species of deadly bacteria, which immediately enters the bloodstream of their victim. Once an animal is wounded, bacteria will begin to attack the vital organs and death will most often occur within one week. Like most carnivores, the Komodo are attracted to blood and may single out pregnant prey using chemical queues and then monitoring their movements. The dragon will “snatch” the newborn from between the mother’s legs at birth. Although this unseemingly vicious act is unfortunate, survival for the endangered Komodo is reduced and remains an integral part of the ecosystem…...S. Powell, 2010

James Murphy, Claudio Ciofi, Colomba de la Panouse, Trooper Walsh. Komodo Dragons, Biology and Conservation, Smithsonian Institution Press, Wahington and London, 2002. John Netherton, David Badger, Lizards, A natural History of Uncommon Creatures, Voyageur Press, Stillwater, MN 2002.

Space Rock Mania, by Sharon Powell

Have you ever wondered if rocks really come from outer space? As a matter of fact, they do come from our solar system, and land on earth at high rates of speed more often than you may think. The proper term for rocks which come from our solar system is referred to as METEORITES. There are approximately 25 tons of dust which rains down on earth every day, and tiny pieces of Meteorite are contained within those dust particles. Large meteorites can travel at speeds of 25,000 mph when it hits earth.

According to Caroline Bingham, Eye Wonder, Rocks & Minerals:  Meteorites are pieces of rock or metal that hit earth. Some Meteorites break off into asteroids and large chunks of rock that orbit the sun between Mars and Jupiter. A renowned astronomer, known as “Galileo” was very interested in planet Jupiter, and quite often witnessed “Comets and Meteorites” orbiting the planet by using a high powered telescope.

Some of you may ask, “What does an Asteroid look like, and what is inside?” From earth, Asteroids look like tiny stars, or starfish. Once an “asteroid” hits the earth’s surface, it is examined to find out the level of metal contained within it. Scientists discovered that “asteroids” contain metals such as iron, in addition to rock material.

Comets can be seen from the earth, and are clearly visible at night. Comets are similar to a large fuzzy ball in the sky with a tail attached, and are visible when orbiting close to the sun. Although comets are natural wonders of the world, they contain dangerous gases, ice and dust particles. A comets tail can stretch as far as one hundred miles.  

Howard Schneider, National Geographic, Backyard Guide to the Night Sky, National Geographic Publishers, Washington, D.C., 2009.
Caroline Bingham, Eye Wonder, Rocks and Minerals, D.K. Publishing, New York, NY, 1962.

Inside Ancient Egypt, by Sharon Powell, 2011

Mysterious wonders surround a civilization more than three thousand years old. Great archeological finds reveal the truth of ancient man. Communication for the Egyptians was devised through a pictorial alphabet known as Hieroglyphs, and was used as a means to preserve their heritage to share with the world. Inscribed upon ancient stone are the scenes of great Pharaoh’s and their queen, or perhaps the farmer reaping the rewards of his harvest, or the astrologer; captivated by the twinkling of the stars.

Left behind and buried beneath mounds of earth and sand were beautiful works of art. Hidden treasures bearing the story of life were captured for all to enjoy. Precious gemstone and Jewelry hidden within magnificent tombs were left behind to defend the memory of rulers seeking the truths of eternal life.
Stretched far across the desserts of Egypt are miles of sand and excessive dry climates helping to preserve much of what was used in everyday life. Dead bodies were wrapped in linen bandages to protect the remains and then buried within the richness of natural resource as the art of mummification was passed onto modern man.  

Assuring your place in the afterlife was equally important to the Egyptians. It was believed the spirit of life lives on forever, and only the body succumbed to rot. Ancient Egyptian customs for burial can be better understood through the process of mummification. Preparing the dead for burial was a significant ritual lasting for more than thirty days. The body first needed to be drained of all fluids, which was done by severing the main arteries until the blood and water of life were expelled from the corpse. The internal organs were then removed and discarded; excepting the heart which was quite often placed inside the tomb.  
The morticians would then “coat” the body with a salt like substance found in near-by mountainous terrains known as natron. Natron is a fine white powdery substance used to remove moisture from the body. Coupled with the dry climates and Natron, the body was preserved much in the same way as today’s dehydration processes. The cavity was then filled with spices, herbs, and fine oils for the Pharaoh and queen to use once reaching their destination into the afterlife. Wrapped in fine linen bandages and decorated with jewels and precious gems, the ancients were laid to rest inside sculptured tombs prepared especially for them.

The spirit of the dead would soon transform itself into the spirit of Ka and Ba. These spirits were believed to be the memory of the deceased person where consciousness and individualism provided the magic powers needed to pass through stone by day then, peacefully return to rest at night. The coffins pictured above were placed inside the tomb and discovered thousands of years later. Although technology was not as advanced as today, the Egyptians were highly intelligent and held the key to the mysteries surrounding the great pyramids.

 Kent R. Weeks,Reeves, Wilkerson, Thames and Hudson, Valley of the Kings, London, New York, NY 1996.
 Neils Pemberton, Treasures of the Pharaohs
Lila Perl, The Ancient Egyptians
C.N. Reeves, The Complete Valley of the Kings Tombs and Treasures
Donald Ryan, Ancient Egypt, Penguin Group, New York, NY 2002.
Image, Chicago Field Museum, Chicago IL., Sharon Powell

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Obama's State of the Union Address 2011, Together, the future is ours, by Sharon Powell

 Obama’s State of the Union Address seemed to simplify the needs of both political parties. His motivational quests, and interests resounded on achieving full cooperation with one another by taking a genuine interest in ourselves and the welfare of our fellow Americans. His message may suggest that political party debates and working together may be delaying his plans for economical reform and progress for improving the future of America.

The President stressed America’s future is hopeful providing our people can become the “educational leaders and innovative experts of the world.” His message for achieving these goals rests heavily upon creating innovation in order to support American jobs. Obama feels by investing in Biomedical Research, and Clean Energy Acts, Americans can break dependency on foreign oil and improve the economy. One particular reform the President will present to congress this year, is to eliminate the billions of dollars currently provided to oil companies. By cutting off government support to these industries, 80% of our energy will come from clean energy reserves by 2035. This bill will also promote a wide spread interest in the use of “Electric Automobiles” by the year 2015.

Obama also silenced the crowd when announcing his proposal to “freeze” deficit spending for the next five years. This proposed freeze will involve cutting Community Action Programs, Military spending and Annual Domestic spending. Obama wants to cut programs that America can live without. The President feels by combating corruption which only “rots” the future of America, economic improvement and growth can be achieved.

The president also focused on Educational reform, the Transportation Industry and creating tactics for destroying barriers hindering companies from competing within the world.  Obama vows to simplify the system on tax rates and double our exports of foreign trade by 2014; claiming these progresses will create new jobs for more Americans. The President also painted a brighter picture in trade relations with “China and South Korea,” claiming 320,000 new jobs have been created for Americans in the coming year.

Obama sees America measuring its progress by successful opportunities made by our people; stating these are the projects we work on together in order to achieve stability.   Obama stressed the world has changed form 30 years ago, and Americans need to educate, and move our people into the future in order to achieve economical growth.......S. Powell 2011

1.) Issue of Healthcare, 2009

2.), 2009

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Street Rod Custom Cars, Big Boy Toys, by Sharon Powell

     Belief that the antique Junker pictured on the right would someday resemble the Firery Lime Custom Classic shown above is somewhat difficult to imagine. Car enthusiasts much like Henry Ford who built the first “self-propelled” Quadricycle can profess; pioneering spirits begin by combining creativity and skill in order to advance a nation of people. Fords Quadricycle consisted of a four-wheeled cart and gasoline engine which sparked growth within the automobile industry; followed by the mass production of automobiles and assembly lines. Others, much like Ford, dedicate their lives to perfecting the technological designs of public transportation while enjoying the rewards of Classic Car designs.

The Ford Legacy
     Henry Ford was no different in 1896 than many classic car enthusiasts found today. His innovative talents and contributions to the industry helped him establish the Ford Motor Company in 1903. Ford believed public transportation was an invaluable resource to society, enough so that he dedicated his life to automobile manufacturing. Ford became the Vice President and Chief Engineer for Ford Motor Company in 1910, and by 1918, half of all the cars in America were Model T’s. Although the Ford Motor Company remains one, of many car manufacturers operating within the world, their professional successes and engineered designs make them one of the leading car manufacturers found in America today.

     Every classic car buff will profess that it takes money, and a lot of patience and skill in order to produce the “Fiery Lime Green” classic like the one pictured above. According to Matt Deoden, Custom Cars, Lerner Publications; only a certain type of custom can be classified as a “true” custom car. According to Deoden, early hot rods were pretty rough looking, and factory built cars did not have much style says Deoden. Interior Design and body style are all a part of what makes the difference with each classic car. Most builders seek to find a specific type of car in order to give their design an exciting, and unique appeal to their audience.

Pimping Your Ride
     There are many visual aspects involved with custom car building, and in order to assure a car will qualify for most national car show events, builders must work to design the best looking model they can. Rebuilding custom cars begins with stripping the car of old paint and residue before new parts can be replaced and welded onto the newer model. The stripping process is necessary in order to modify the original body style and prepare it for the next stage of redesign. Some builders choose to “Channel” the body; meaning they drop the car lower to the ground, or shave the door handles in order to provide the car with a smooth and fine finish. Other builders prefer to replace the car’s engine with a more powerful V-8 model. Much like the newer trendy “Pro Street” designs, some builders enjoy using the “Ford Flathead V-8, or the Chrysler Fire Power Hemi, or a Chevy big block engine in order to give the car a unique design. Once the car has gone through the welding and parts replacement, the builder will then sand the metal to a fine finish in order to prepare the car for a new and “flashy” custom paint job.

     Who would have thought that engineers like Henry Ford, or Thomas Edison could have made such an impact on public transportation, but they did. Their names and life successes will remain an important part of social growth. Custom car builders and enthusiasts will always pay tribute to those responsible for the foundational strengths of industry within America.

To find out more about Custom car building, go to your local library or internet search engines at:;; or or Powell, 2011


1.) Doeden, Matt, Custom Cars, Lerner Publications Co., Minneapolis, MN, 2008

2.) McCollum, Sean, Custom Cars, The Ins and outs of Turners, Hot Rods, and Other Muscle Cars, Velocity-Capstone Press, Mankato, MN, 2010



Sunday, January 2, 2011

Galileo Galilei’s Vision, By Sharon Powell

     Have you ever wondered what Galileo Galilee noticed while gazing into the night sky? Some people might think the astronomer saw nothing at all. According to Howard Schneider’s, and National Geographic’s Backyard Guide to the Night Sky, Galileo was considered legally blind by the age of seventy.  Although his blindness was not caused from the suns rays, Galileo spent countless hours gazing into the earth’s atmosphere while discovering some simple, but very important facts about our solar system.

     Galileo was a famous inventor during the 17th. Century, and classified as physicist, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role within the world of science. Galileo was also professor of mathematics at the University of Padua from 1592-1610, instructing students on the concepts and functional processes of math.  Among Galileo's most famous inventions were the first high-powered telescope, a horse powered pump to draw water, and hydrostatic balance, making him a well known figure within the world of technology.

     Discoveries of the 17th. Centuries were often difficult for scientists. New methods of technology were questioned by officials, and church denominations who continually disputed the scientific theories Galileo presented. Although suffering much criticism throughout his career, Galileo’s work led to the development of new discoveries and helpful tools used today, including the 12 month calendar.

     There are many different kinds of telescopes in use today, but the basis of all, is to view objects from a distance. A Dutch eyeglass maker known as Hans Lippershey invented the first optical, or Refracting Telescope.  Refracting Telescopes magnify the object while bending light in order to bring the subject into focus.  Other models include the Reflecting Telescope, and Solar models. Reflecting Telescopes incorporate the use of mirrors to enhance magnification. Positioning and precision, are specifics found necessary in order to reflect the image into a single lens.  Solar Telescopes allow scientists to look directly into the sun without suffering damage from the effects of the suns rays.

     Galileo was a powerful and significant thinker, whose research laid the framework for the theory of relativity, and laws of motion. Future scientists, such as Sir Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein studied Galileo’s theories, and later redefined them as scientific knowledge.  To learn more about our solar system and Galileo’s study of Jupiter’s’ Moon’s go to your local library, or search engine……...S. Powell, 2011
1.) Howard Schneider, National Geographic’s Backyard Guide to the Night Sky; National Geographic Publishers, Washington, D.C., 2009.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pogona Bearded Dragons, By Sharon Powell

                   Photograph Compliments of Rainbow Bearded Dragons

                   Publication:  Kid Headliner, Elementary Activity Reader

If reptiles are your favorite, then you will soon discover the Bearded Dragon to be one of the most unique and fun loving pets you could ever own. Like Sunny and Hypo pictured in this month’s issue, Bearded Dragons seem to possess a personality all their own, and can adapt quite well in captivity when provided adequate means of support. The vibrant orange-red and yellow tones found within many species makes them a pet everyone will admire.
Bearded dragons originate from various regions of Australia, and are considered gentle of nature. Only when the dragon feels threatened will they flee to safety.

Like most wild predators “Bearded Dragons are equipped with a set of teeth fused to both sides of their mouth. The Dragons front teeth fall out quite often and grow back on a regular basis. Only the back teeth remain intact and are used for cutting and slicing their food in order to promote a healthy means of digesting.
Bearded Dragons are also very good listeners, and possess two oval shaped ear openings on the sides of their head. If you look closely you can see the thin membrane inside the Dragons ear drum.  The tiny membrane is used to enhance sound waves within their environment.

Most all lizards are very small when born. The Bearded Dragon is less than 3” in length and weighs no more than 2 oz. Although they are less than the size of a pencil, their growth patterns are quick to change. Dragons grow an average of 2” per month, and will reach adulthood within less than a year. A full grown Bearded Dragon weighs approximately four to six lbs. and can range between eighteen to twenty inches in length. The life expectancy for the reptile is somewhere between ten and twelve years.

Some of the most significant features of anatomy belonging to the Dragon is their tail, eyes and support provided by their "stocky legs and claws." The Dragons tail is slightly rounded, and longer then the body.  The tail is commonly used to support themselves when sitting, or may be used as a weapon of defense against predators. The legs are also perfect for climbing and running at high rates of speed within a split second. Although the Dragon is quick to move, they are unable to run long distances. The claws are an excellent tool for digging and climbing, and to assist them when consuming food.

Skin Color
There are eight species of Bearded Dragon and all offer a rainbow of colors to choose from. The bright-orange reds are a favorite to many pet lovers, as is the brown, grey and yellow species. It is wise not to let their skin color fool you because Dragons are able to change skin tones when feeling threatened. Camouflage is a common defense mechanism many wild animals and reptiles possess and the Bearded Dragon will use it to intimidate predators.

The Bearded Dragon is a tough little creature, and their thick skin is proof that life in the hot sun is something to be taken seriously. All reptiles are ectotherms, or cold blooded animals, and require basking in the sun for several hours per day in order to maintain a comfortable body temperature of 85 degrees. Their thick layer of skin also acts as a protect ant from loss of moisture and injury against predator attacks. Although their skin is thick and rigid, it remains soft to the touch. Like most humans, dry skin is a condition some of us find overwhelming. Although humans do not shed large amounts of skin like the Bearded Dragon, we do experience flaking in dry weather conditions. The Bearded Dragon will shed their skin several times per year in order to maintain moisture by releasing the old layers. Shedding old layers of skin is a healthy part of molting and assures the reptile remains free of disease.

It may seem a bit strange to invite your pet Dragon to dinner, but this could never be farther from the truth. In fact, Bearded Dragons are omnivores and highly attracted to bright colored foods, such as the red and yellow types of fruits and vegetables. Besides enjoying a toss salad on a daily basis, they will also feast on a “chirping cricket” or slimy green worms such as meal, or the crawler types used for fishing. It is also important to provide plenty of vitamin D and Calcium powder for your Dragon to promote strong and healthy bones.

Bring along your favorite pair of sun shades when enjoying an afternoon of sunbathing with your Dragon. Although all reptiles are cold-blooded, they are able to control their body temperatures by moving in and out of the sun throughout the day. This allows the Dragon to maintain comfortable body temperatures. They will also seek comfort from a warm rock, or use the heat from the ground. When night falls, the Dragon is usually lodged between a rock or inside the bark of a tree to stay warm. The reptile will search for almost anything able to supply warmth, providing their survival is not threatened.

Now that you have learned some very important facts about Beaded Dragons you may decide that they are the perfect choice when selecting a reptile as a pet. To find out more about reptile species go to your local library or contact for a special purchase offer. Simply inform them you read this article and receive $15.00 off the purchase price of any Bearded Dragon in stock……...S. Powell, 2010

1.) Steve Grenard, Your Happy Healthy Pet, Bearded Dragon, (e.2), Wiley Publishing, & Howell Book House Inc., Hoboken, NJ, 2008.
2.) Manfred Au, Bearded Dragons, Barrons Educational Series, Munich Germany, 2008.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

History of Fort Quiatenon, By Sharon Powell

Photographs by: Sharon Powell

Established by the French in 1717, Fort Quiatenon was the first European settlement in Indiana. Located in West Lafayette, Indiana, the fort is a historical landmark and a significant part of America’s Heritage. During the 18th Century, Fort Quiatenon had become a major trading post and home to more than 3000 residents and several Indian villages. The land provided a hunting ground for both Native Americans and tradesmen residing within the area. Europeans had designated Fort Quiatenon a meeting ground, and resting place for wayfarers settling in America from England and Quebec. The French occupied the fort as a military outpost to prevent British expansion into the Ohio and Wabash territories.

Industrial Revolution
Throughout much of the 18th Century Europeans and British policies governed early colonial settlers. The British and French Revolution paved the way for the establishment of civilized colonies and lifestyle changes due, in part, to the impacts of the industrial revolution. Canals, railways, steam-powered engines and machined tools began to change the shape of American lifestyles. During this time, Native Americans were also being affected by the changes, including British policies and monarchy confining all trade to posts while prohibiting the traffic of liquor and other products into the area. British policies forced negative changes for many Native Americans, leaving them feeling threatened and inconvenienced by British rule. In addition to being a military trading post. Fort Quiatenon was also home to many Indian tribes, including the Wea, Miami, and Fox tribes who depended heavily upon the resources of land and animals. Bison, Buffalo, Beaver and fur bearing animals were plentiful within the area and provided the resources for surviving the socioeconomic trends and ruggedness of colonial lifestyles. A small number of Miami Indians still reside in Indiana today. Approximately 2500 Native Americans help preserve the history of Colonial America.

British Tax on Colonies
British policy was often difficult for Native Americans to follow. The French and British military conflicts made life difficult for area residents. British soldiers were engaged in battle against Native Americans and French soldiers until the conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1759 when British General James Wolfe captured Quebec. The victory allowed the British to begin taxing colonist to help pay for the losses incurred by the war while placing additional hardships onto Indian nations. Native Americans fought to defend their right to land and began joining forces in an effort to eliminate the rigid confines of British rule.

Chief Pontiac
A surge of Indian villages and uprising began to escalate after the conclusion of the war. Indian tribes settling near the banks of the Great Lakes Region and Ohio River, joined forces with various tribes residing along the Tippecanoe and Wabash Rivers. It was during this time that a major revolt involving Fort Quiatenon occurred in 1763 by an Ottawaian Indian Tribe leader known as Pontiac. Pontiac’s Rebellion against British forces took control of Fort Quiatenon, transforming the land into meeting grounds for raids against Kentucky settlers. Chief Pontiac forged ahead, taking control of several outposts during the uprising while establishing him-self as a threat to military leaders. The rebellion was a controversial issue for military leaders and it was not until the Supervisor of Native affairs, Sir William Johnson appointed Deputy Colonel George Croghan to negotiate a peace treaty with Pontiac, ending the uprising. Chief Pontiac was later assonated by an Indian tribesman’s for organizing hostilities among the Illinois Indians.

Abandoned Fort
Military forces declared Fort Quiatenon useless due to the attack and allowed Native Americans control up until 1791. Indian revolts on area residents continued to escalate causing military forces to engage in heavy battle. Kentucky Militiamen, General Charles Scott was in charge, and later instructed to burn several Indian villages along the Tippecanoe and Wabash Rivers. Fort Quiatenon was not spared and the settlement was soon abandoned and suffered decay.

Contemporary Celebrations
One hundred thirty-seven years passed before a physician relocating to Lafayette, IN purchased the land in 1928. Recognizing the historical value of Fort Quiatenon, Dr. Richard B. Wetherill constructed a replica of the blockhouse trading post pictured above. Indian Hogan’s and replica of a colonial oven used during the 18th. Century is also pictured and remains a significant part of America’s heritage.
Fort Quiatenon was rich with artifacts and became a historical landmark and county Park in 1968. During the fall of the year, The Feast of the Hunters Moon is celebrated. Annual gatherings are formed in an effort to preserve American heritage and the historical value recognized within the fort. Local residents share recreations of 18th Century trade and lifestyle. Music, Dance, Colonial and Military costumes and artisans continue to pay tribute to the historical value of the fort.

1.) Robert M. Taylor, Jr., Errol Wayne Stevens, Mary Ann Ponder, Paul

Brockman, Indiana: A New Historical Guide, Indiana Historical Society, 1989 2.)'s_War


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