What are trees made of

What are trees made of? If someone asked you where the mass of a tree comes from, what would you say? Have you ever really thought . . . Here

Source: What are trees made of

 

 
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If you are wondering how tons of wood, leaf, bark and all the innards of, say, a massive redwood tree can get pulled out of air, you’ll want to hear Feynman’s explanation, which is mostly him happily arguing with himself. (“How is it the tree is so smart … and do that so easily? Ah! Life! Life has some mysterious force? No! …”)

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But First…

But before you go to Feynman, it’s best to start here, with this primer from Derek Miller of Australia’s science video site, Veritasium. “Would it surprise you,” Derek asks three young guys in a park — one of them wearing a T-shirt that says “living the dreem,” “to discover that 95 percent of a tree is actually from carbon dioxide, that trees are largely made up of air?” The guys smile politely and say, “Ummmm … OK … ”

I think, watching this video, you’ll be more surprised than they were.

So that’s the lesson: that a tree gets its mass from air and water. It “eats” air, chomps down on airborne carbon dioxide, then uses sunshine to pull the carbon dioxide apart, gets rid of the oxygen, which “it spits back into the air,” says Feynman, “leaving the carbon and water, the stuff to make the substance of the tree.”

But wait a second! Water is in the ground, right? Water is not in the air. Ah, says Feynman, but how did water get into the ground? “It came mostly out of the air, didn’t it?” Waving his hands, he says rain “came out of the sky.”

What a beautiful notion, that from the dancing air comes the towering monarchs that are our trees. But don’t take my word for it, or Derek’s. You’re now ready to hear it from the Big Guy. When this begins, he’s talking about fire. He gets to trees about two minutes in.

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