Simple Things #5

In which we use Randall Munroe’s ‘simple writer‘ to explain plant-and-pipette topics. Can you guess what they are?

Monroe’s ‘simple writer’ limits language use to only the 10 hundred most common words in the English language. So the word ‘chloroplast’ is out. But so is ‘duck’, ‘cuddle’, and ‘explosion’.

We’ve tried to define a plant and pipette related word using only these common words. Can you tell what we’re talking about? The solution is shown at the bottom.

When people want to discover new things about green living things they look at them in special rooms that have lights that are always the same. Also they give them always the same water and the green living things grow in always the same earth. This is ok most of the time but for some questions it is not enough.

Then the people take the green things outside and put them in the ground there. They make sure that the green living things live on different kinds of earth, and get the light from the sun and the water from the rain. This helps to learn how green living things grow outside when left alone. It is also important to learn how they grow outside when you want to grow a lot of them, like for food. This can’t be done inside anymore and that’s why outside learning is done with the green living things.

Can you guess what we are describing?

Solution
The answer is: a field experiment!

Researchers often use greenhouses for their research to control all environmental factors. This way they can be sure that the observed effect only originates from one changed influence and not for example from a very dry summer.

Sometimes however, it is necessary to test the fitness of a plant line under real, outside conditions. That’s when researchers use field experiments to measure the influence of factors like sunlight, rain and fluctuating temperatures on the plant’s fitness.

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