Wednesday, December 30, 2020

SearchResearch Extra: Tab to search - a handy pro shortcut


Happy end of 2020!  

I'm sure 2020 will be the topic of endless PhD theses in the future, but at the moment, I'm just as happy to move on in to a brighter future.

But I wanted to leave you with a little gift--a pro tip that I use all the time, but I realized the other day that not everyone knows about!  To fix this gap in world knowledge, I put together a little 1MM (1-Minute Morceaux video) for you on how to use tab-to-search.  This search trick saves me a lot of time, and just might save you a few extra milliseconds.  

(The key idea is that you can often use the sites' own search utility (if they have one!) to search their site in the way that THEY think is best.  This isn't the same as the SITE: search you all know and love, but it uses the site's own search too.)  

Link to the 1MM video:  Tab to Search 


And search on! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

SearchResearch End-of-year Summary


This is the last SRS post of 2020.... 

.... thank heavens!  

As you know, it's been a strange year, but we've soldiered forward with 26 Challenges (and 26 Answers), a bunch of additional content (both Extras and Public Service Announcements).  We had just over 1100 comments--thanks Regular Readers!  

To take a look back is always rewarding--so here's my Year in SRS view.  

The Challenges went like this.. Remember these?  

Mysterious rainbows and fossils in the floor 

Canary Islands cooking (Originally called "Where's this place?") 

What is Bernard singing about? 

How to find old songs  (YouTube is remarkably helpful in finding old tunes. This includes REALLY old tunes, e.g., Gregorian chants.)  

Does banning plastic bags actually help the environment?  (It's not clear that it does.)   

When to provide context?  (If your research question has any depth, you need to provide some context for your answer.  Big tip: Almost all questions require context.)  

What research questions you’re doing?  (No surprise here, most people are searching for COVID.)  

Videos about finding credible medical content 

Finding the right names to search for something
(Really useful for odd names like: Alison Guyot, Franklin Dixon, or the name of the  ÷ and ⌘ symbols)

Using archival news (To see what happened in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, and how that might be relevant to us in 2020) 

San Francisco Examiner, Jan 20, 1919

Extramusical sounds  (What are those sounds that you hear in the background of some music?)  

Finding national anthems (Find the national anthems of Hawai'i and other state or national anthems that are NOT in the local language.  There are more than you might think!) 

Why do beans and peas move as they grow?  (Because they're thigmotropic in order to find good scaffolding. Be sure to look that one up!) 

Finding collections of online content  (Because sometimes the best way to a source is to find the collection, and then search inside of that.)  

Were there gomphotheres in Panama?  (Yes, there were. And they migrated from North to South American when the Isthmus of Panama became a thing...)  

Gomphotheres were native to North America. You might have had
one in your backyard 2.5M BCE.

Finding the latest COVID regulations  (This should be simple.  It's not. Here's how.)  

Curious state boundaries (inclusions along state borders)  (I had no idea...)  

Finding a time-lapse of wildfire growth (It's not obvious how to do this.) 

Everyday fact-checking: What do you do?  (SRS Readers search a lot!) 

Digging deeper into the story behind a photo (Contrails are complex beasts.)  

The natural history of kelp forests  (They're not doing well, but there are signs of hope!)

Urban development in the Indio/Coachella area  (A LOT of golf courses were built.)  

Who survived from the Mayflower?   (Answer: Not many...) 

The mystery of the polygonal areoles on autumn grape leaves (We didn't really find an answer... at least not yet.  Continuing to work on this.  More insights as we learn more.) 

And there were a few Extras: 

Double quotes / negative transfer (video)  (Sometimes you do NOT want to use double quotes when searching!)  

Fluff filters (Make it your reading habit to ignore fluff that's in the document. Here's how.) 

How to find the Utah monolith in the SRS way (There are people with a lot of free time...)  

Even more wildfire tracking sites (If you live in fire-prone areas, you might want to track these sites.) 

Even MORE collections (Yes!  Love collections.)  

A few Public Service Announcements: 

Started a new Search Education YouTube channel  (There are six now... more are coming.  Subscribe and stay in touch with the latest.)  

PowerSearching course now on edX  (The Advanced PowerSearching Course will be coming soon!)

3D flying in Google Maps (The most fun you can have while sitting at your desktop. No, really!)  

6 things to know about videoconferences (Big tip: Practice before you go live!) 

Looking forward to next year? 

I certainly am looking forward. The mysteries never seem to end, and since Google search is constantly changing, we'll be back here during 2021 to document the new ways you can search online.  Stay tuned!  

And leave a comment on which Challenges you liked (and which you didn't care for).  That will be useful information as we push forward into the information forest.  

Search on! 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Answer: The mystery of the grape leaf polygonally changing color



I was emailing with my artist friend Lynne Garell who captured a set of photos that are striking. I've never seen any leaves change color quite like this: 

A grape leaf closeup. P/C Lynne Garell, from her series of grape leaf images 

 How does this happen? How can a polygonal piece of a leaf all change at once?  Is this the way all leaves change?  What's going on here? 

Another image from her series: 

What's going on here isn't at all obvious... 

Here are the Challenges I set out last week.  

To begin with, I really had no ideas, but I realized that I needed some basic terminology.  So I dealt with Challenge 2 first... 

2. To answer this question for myself, I thought I'd first find out what each of those polygonal sections is called, and then search on that term.  But I couldn't find it!  So, a Challenge for you:  What is that part of the leaf called?  Here's an image that I made to illustrate the question: 

That thing...  what's it called?  These polygons, like the ones above in Lynne's photo, would seem to be fairly obvious structural features of a leaf.  But I can't figure out what they're called.  Can you?  (I realize that up close this looks like a giraffe's skin, but I assure you, this is a closeup of a leaf.)  

I started with an easy search:  

     [ leaf veins ] 

and just read around the results for a bit.  The first hit is to a comprehensive (and fascinating) summary of what leaf veins are and how they're organized.  (Leaf venation: structure, function, development, evolution, ecology and applications in the past, present and future.  Sack, L., & Scoffoni, C. (2013). New Phytologist, 198(4), 983-1000.

Really interesting, but while I learned a lot about venation structures (first-order, second-order, arrangement of xylem and phloem conduits within veins!), I did not learn what the spaces in-between the veins are called.  

But I DID learn that grapes are dicots, which have a reticulate venation pattern (that is, it's a web-like structure between the veins), and that "veins transport water throughout the lamina mesophyll."  

That is, the leaf (as a whole) is the lamina, while the veins are made up of xylem and phloem cells surrounded by bundles of sheath cells. The vein xylem transports water from the base of the leaf throughout the lamina mesophyll, and the phloem transports sugars out of the leaf to the rest of the plant.  Right? Water comes in through the xylem; nutrients go out via the phloem. 

Generically, the stuff in the middle is the mesophyll, but that's too generic a term. What's a more specific term for those polygonal structures we see? 

I went back to the SERP and found the Wikipedia article on Leaf, wherein I found this: 

"The areas or islands of mesophyll lying between the higher order veins, are called areoles. Some of the smallest veins (veinlets) may have their endings in the areoles, a process known as areolation..."  

Now we've got a specific term: areole.  Let's use that in our search: 

     [ leaf areole ] 

Which gives the satisfying image search result of: 

That image on the far right is from a text about fern leaf architecture, and is basically the same drawing I did above!  

On to the next Challenge! 

1. What is this effect called?   (That is, the polygons changing color independently of the surrounding leaf to create this kind of pattern.)  

This has turned out to be pretty hard. 

I spent a long time trying various queries, looking at lots of image results of grape leaves... and finding results like this, nice, but not polygonal: 

What's more, I was NOT able to find grape leaves that change color areole-by-areole.  As you can see from the images above, generally speaking, grapes change color on a fine-grain size, not by the entire areole changing color at once.  Even the top image in the above set isn't quantized--if you look carefully, you'll see that the areoles change color across a gradient--an entire areole doesn't change all at once.  

I was so surprised by this that I went out and picked up a few grape leaves from the neighborhood (with permission!) for a closer look.  Here are a few of those images at increasing magnification:  


In the bottom image you can see the individual cells in the mesophyll (technically, the palisade cells).  The bright out-of-focus lines are the veins.  

And, as you can see, not all of the cells in the areole are of the same color--there's a gradient across the areole from brown (on the far left), through red, to green just before the cells hit the vein.  

So the big Challenge boils down to this: Why do these areoles all change color simultaneously?  

I have to admit that I struck out on this, despite searching extensively on Scholar, News, and Images.  These polygonal red patches are fairly rare!  

Part of the clue might be in the structure of the color changes in Garell's photos.  Here I've annotated a couple of her leaves with purple lines to show that the areoles that change color are the ones farthest from the primary veins. 

What causes leaves to change color in the first place?  As you know, in the fall, because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible. The amount and kind of color depends on the carotenes and xanthophyll pigments in the leaf, along with development of red anthocyanin pigments.  

So, in Garell's leaves, the areoles that are most distant from the veins are the ones that change color first. 

While I wasn't able to find a documented explanation for the polygonal areole color changes, I'd be willing to bet that these particular grape leaves had some kind of environmental or biological stress (e.g., a bacterial infection) that let the areoles that are least connected to the main veins lose their chlorophyll first.  Whatever the stressor was, it affected the entire areole, rather than just a part.  Was it a hard freeze during a cold snap?  Or what it something else?  

At this point, we don't know the deep reasons, but just have a suggestion that these particularly lovely images capture a fairly rare color event in the French fall.  Most grape leaves in France don't seem to have these beautiful polygons, but look a bit more generic.  Here's a photo from near Lyon--nice, but no polygons.  

Many thanks to Lynne Garell for letting me use (and annotate) some of beautiful images.  If you liked these images, please check out Lynne's Etsy site for her photography.  It's all beautiful.  

SearchResearch Lessons

Well... there are at least two here, perhaps more... 

1. You won't always succeed.  I'm pretty sure there's an answer out there, somewhere, but I wasn't able to find it this week, despite multiple hours on the task.  It was fun, but I didn't find an answer.  But I WILL keep my eyes open! 

2. Finding a specific term (e.g., areole) can help target your search much better.  And yes, I'll eat my words if someone manages to find the answer to this Challenge and doesn't use areole somewhere in their search process.  

I'll keep looking and will give an update if I learn more about the geometry of color-changing French grape leaves. 

Laissez les bons temps rouler!  

 (I realize this is Cajun French, but it seems appropriate...)  

Search on! 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

SearchResearch Challenge (12/9/20): The mystery of the grape leaf polygonally changing color


A question I get asked a lot is... 

... "Where do you get your SearchResearch Challenge ideas?"  

As you know, our topics vary quite a bit.  One week it might be identifying a wreck that I spotted somewhere off the California coast, while another week we might be discussing the location of a mysterious statue in London, or small animals cutting a clearing around bushes in the Santa Cruz mountains. We get around.  

But the Challenges I like the most are those that come from friends who ask questions that seem simple or obvious, but which, upon closer examination, reveal hidden depths.  

I was email-chatting with my artist friend Lynne Garell who is living in France, loving life there, and taking wonderful photographs of the world around her.  

We started a conversation about one of her photos that caught my eye.  I've seen lots of leaves change colors over the years, but never quite like this: 

A grape leaf closeup. P/C Lynne Garell, from her series of grape leaf images 

This appeared in her blog, Lo Vedo Life, the other day and it seemed impossible.  How does this happen? How can a polygonal piece of a leaf all change at once?  Is this the way all leaves change?  What's going on here? 

Another image from her series: 

The more I looked into this, the more I realized that this isn't at all obvious... 

So I'm translating our conversation into an SRS Challenge for everyone.   Caution:  I have not yet figured this one out, so it might be REALLY  HARD or even impossible.  But that's the fun of the Challenge, is it not?  We'll set a high bar, and see if we can leap over it. 

1. What is this effect called?   (That is, the polygons changing color independently of the surrounding leaf to create this kind of pattern.)  

2. To answer this question for myself, I thought I'd first find out what each of those polygonal sections is called, and then search on that term.  But I couldn't find it!  So, a Challenge for you:  What is that part of the leaf called?  Here's an image that I made to illustrate the question: 

That thing...  what's it called?  These polygons, like the ones above in Lynne's photo, would seem to be fairly obvious structural features of a leaf.  But I can't figure out what they're called.  Can you?  (I realize that up close this looks like a giraffe's skin, but I assure you, this is a closeup of a leaf.)  

As always, I'm interested in HOW you found the answer!  Let us know in the comments section.   

Botanically yours... 

Search on! 

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Answer: Who made it to the first Thanksgiving?

 The Mayflower story is encrusted with legend and the legacy of centuries of story-telling...  

Image by Sabrina Ripke from Pixabay

As noted, 2020 is the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing to North America, and the 399th anniversary of the First Thanksgiving associated with the Mayflower Pilgrims.  

They landed in Massachusetts in mid-November and barely made it through the hard first winter, which led to the Thanksgiving feast of 1621. 

I wondered who was left to celebrate after that difficult year.  And that leads to our Challenge today.  How many souls were still around?  

1. The Mayflower left England with 109 102 souls, of which only 2 perished on the way.  By the time of the Thanksgiving feast in November of 1621, how many of the original settlers were still alive?   How do you know? 

Looking up the Mayflower story is fairly straightforward, but getting the details right is a little tricky. The queries are easy [ Mayflower voyage ] or [ Mayflower landing ] to find many different tellings of their tale.  

Wikipedia: "After a grueling 10 weeks at sea, the Mayflower, with 102 passengers and a crew of about 30, reached America, dropping anchor near the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on November 21 [O.S. November 11], 1620." (Sorry about the typo in the number of passengers: it was never 109.)  

The journey from Europe to North America was complicated. They initially planned on sailing with another vessel, the Speedwell in July, but they set out to sea, and returned for repairs twice before they Speedwell decided to stay in England, letting the Mayflower proceed on a solo voyage. A few of the Speedwell passengers transferred onto the already crowded Mayflower.  

So the traditional account of the Mayflower journey begins on September 6, 1620, the day they sailed from Plymouth, but it’s worth noting that by that time the Pilgrims had already been living aboard ships for nearly a month and a half.

It was a difficult journey: 100 foot swells, everyone wet and freezing cold for much of the time. 

Remarkably, only one passenger, William Butten, a servant of Deacon Samuel Fuller, died at sea, and one child was born. One of the passengers was swept overboard, but was saved by grabbing a rope that hauled him back on board.  About the same time Oceanus Hopkins was born onboard.  One lost, one gained.  

By the time they reached Massachusetts in November and established Plymouth (the name of their settlement), it was well into the cold part of the year.  With inadequate provisions and not nearly enough shelter, people started to die off.  How many made it through the first year?  

I tried two different queries, both of which gave me a number of resources:  

     [ how many Pilgrims survived first Thanksgiving ] 

     [ Plymouth colonists survive first thanksgiving ] 

Scholastic:  tells us that out of 102 passengers, 51 survived the first winter, only four of the married women (Elizabeth Hopkins, Eleanor Billington, Susanna White Winslow, and Mary Brewster).   These four women, along with the older girls, oversaw food preparation for the three-day harvest feast for the colonists, Massasoit, and his 90 Indian men — the feast that we now call "The First Thanksgiving." (52 English were at that feast as the baby boy Peregrine was born after their arrival.)

By contrast, tells us that 44 passengers survived.  

Meanwhile, a article tells us that 50 passengers survived.  

And says that 53 people people made it to the first Thanksgiving.  (I tend to believe this number... why?  See below.) 

That's a fair range of answers: 51, 44, 50, 53.  If you keep digging, you'll find even more numbers! 

Bottom line: there's a bit of variation in the possible answers that you'll find with an uncritical search.  How do we get to the ground truth?   

I noticed, as I read, that several of the articles pointed to William Bradford's book that's an account of those days, Of Plimoth Plantation (1622).  Since he was on the Mayflower, and a central figure in the story, I think his report is probably the most accurate. This is an easy search on  (Note: A somewhat easier version to read is Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation, 1606-1646. It's edited for clarity and fixes a bunch of errata. And you can download the entire PDF!)   

So, I downloaded the PDF and found this... 

Scan of original manuscript by William Bradford 
(Frontispiece in Bradford's History...)  

Reading carefully, one finds that... 

2.  If you know THAT number, what were their  names?!?  

... on Page 407, you find the following item: 

Page 407 of Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation

It's a lot of people. But when you get a few pages farther into the text, you start to read this: 

Page 409 of Bradford

And if you read carefully, you can start with the initial list of Mayflower passengers, and then strike-out the ones who died before the first Thanksgiving, you'll be left with 53 Mayflower people who attended that festival day.  

Of course, the simplest way I found to get to the original list of passengers was to search for it: 

     [ list of Mayflower passengers ] 

leads quickly to a Wikipedia list of the 102 passengers onboard.  (Alas, it does NOT list all of the crew.  The officers are listed, but the common seamen are just in a lump. Just as with the passengers, there's also a lot of disagreement about how many sailors there were.)  This list has an asterisk next to all those that died over the winter.  

Going back to that PilgrimHall article, one of the reasons I found it believable when I first read it was that it actually listed all of the (known) Mayflower survivors at the first Thanksgiving.  To wit, 

4 MARRIED WOMEN: Eleanor Billington, Mary Brewster, Elizabeth Hopkins, Susanna White Winslow.

5 ADOLESCENT GIRLS: Mary Chilton (14), Constance Hopkins (13 or 14), Priscilla Mullins (19), Elizabeth Tilley (14 or 15) and Dorothy, the Carver's unnamed maidservant, perhaps 18 or 19.

9 ADOLESCENT BOYS: Francis & John Billington, John Cooke, John Crackston, Samuel Fuller, Giles Hopkins, William Latham, Joseph Rogers, Henry Samson.

13 YOUNG CHILDREN: Bartholomew, Mary Allerton, Remember Allerton, Love Brewster, Wrestling Brewster, Humility Cooper, Samuel Eaton, Damaris Hopkins, Oceanus Hopkins, Desire Minter, Richard More, Resolved White, Peregrine White.

22 MEN: John Alden, Isaac Allerton, John Billington, William Bradford, William Brewster, Peter Brown, Francis Cooke, Edward Doty, Francis Eaton, [first name unknown] Ely, Samuel Fuller, Richard Gardiner, John Goodman, Stephen Hopkins, John Howland, Edward Lester, George Soule, Myles Standish, William Trevor, Richard Warren, Edward Winslow, Gilbert Winslow.

The good news is that this list aligns with what you can read in Bradford's account.  So I'm pretty sure that there were 53 Mayflower survivors at the first Thanksgiving. 

Very little beats the original account.    

3.  Purely for fun extra credit, I found that THIS famous image is somehow connected with the Mayflower.  Can you discover how? 

Doing a Search-By-Image you'll quickly find that this dramatic image was made by Harold Edgerton, the famous high-speed-photography wizard at MIT.  

Searching for the connection between Edgerton and the Mayflower is as simple as: 

     [ Harold Edgerton Mayflower ] 

and then sifting through the results for a credible source.  I found a geneology site, that tells us: "... Edgerton was born in Fremont, Nebraska on April 6, 1903, the son of Mary Nettie Coe and Frank Eugene Edgerton, a direct descendant of Richard Edgerton, one of the founders of Norwich, Connecticut and a descendent of Governor William Bradford (1590–1657) of the Plymouth Colony and a passenger on the Mayflower." 

Just to double check, I looked up Richard Edgerton, verifying the Norwich, CT connection.  And then I pretty much recapitulated what Regular Reader Arthur Weiss did.  To quote his outstanding comment on this: 

He [Edgerton] was from Bradford's great granddaughter Alice who married Samuel Edgerton, Richard Edgerton's son.

She's listed in Bradford's descendants on page 24 on Our New England ancestors and their descendants, 1620-1900 [microform] : historical, genealogical, biographical 

Governor William Bradford's eldest son from his 2nd wife was a Major William Bradford. His sixth daughter was Hannah who married Joshua Ripley. Their eldest child was Alice - who married Samuel Edgerton who is an ancestor of Harold Edgerton and the son of Richard Edgerton. (Hannah seems interesting in her own right - she acted as the settlement doctor). confirms this with links to original source material e.g.  [ Behind a paywall. ] 

To Arthur's eternal credit, he then went and edited the Wikipedia article to fix the internet.  Kudos to Arthur!  

SearchResearch Lessons 

Several useful lessons here:  

1. There is often lots of reading to extract the info you want.  I ended up reading about 20 documents, noticing the variant numbers, which drove me to dig even deeper into the material.  But there's just no escaping it: Sometimes you have to read extensively.  

2. Don't believe the first number you find.  As we saw, the numbers vary all over the place.  You have to look hard to find an accurate accounting. 

3. Don't necessarily trust the number you see in a search-engine answer box.  Especially when the number has to be derived from a careful analysis.  

Here, for instance, is Google's Answer: 


It's right, as far as it goes, but kind of off target. I asked "how many people," not just men. 

Meanwhile, Bing does a better job: 



4.  For historical information like this, when you see ambiguity, look for original content (such as Bradford's book).  Note that Bradford's book also has errors--first accounts frequently do.  But by doing primary document research, you're well on your way to becoming an excellent SearchResearcher (or a historian)!  

Search on!