Simple Things #6

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.

The green things that eat the sun’s light to live also need water. They get the water from the ground. To reach the water they have special parts that are long and narrow and often not green. These parts are stuck in the ground where they reach for water. The water is then taken up into the tiny bags of these long thin parts and then moved to the green parts.

The water is important there because it can turn into water air to cool the green parts, it fills the tiny bags and makes them hard and it can be broken into the air we breathe and into a special form of the kind of air that burns very hot. Most green living things can’t live without the parts that go into the ground to take up water, that’s why many people who discover things are very interested in them.

Can you guess what we are describing?

Solution

The answer is: roots!

Despite being invisible to us most of the time, roots are indispensable for almost all plants. Some very special plants make do without but the vast majority relies on roots for the uptake of water and nutrients.

Water is used by the plant to cool the leaves through evaporation and even more importantly is broken into protons and oxygen during photosynthesis. Oxygen is released from the leaf and helps us staying alive, protons are used in cellular processes to fix chemical energy and help the plant stay alive.

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