Sunday, March 31, 2013

California's Clear Lake named for the clarity of the region's air

Soda Bay and the Narrows of Clear Lake in northern California
Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake entirely inside California, was named by early European settlers for the clarity of the fresh air above and around the lake. The local Pomo people called the lake Lypoyomi, meaning Big Water [1-3]. As verified by the California Air Resources Board, the lake area still has the cleanest air in California—and that, although volcanic gases are bubbling out of the lake water in Soda Bay north of the dormant Mt. Konocti volcano [4]. Over 300 species of birds make Clear Lake's water, air and surrounding landscape their home [1].

The picture above shows a view from Clear Lake State Park over Soda Bay and the Narrows near Glenhaven, which “divide” the lake in a north and a south part. The water of the lake is not clear, since its shallow body of water is naturally rich in nutrients (eutrophic): algae and cyanobacteria are native to Clear Lake.  They grow, depending on cool or warm weather conditions, rise to the lake surface and decay into foul-smelling organic matter [5]. Notice that foul-smelling gases do not necessarily affect the clarity of air.

To conclude with a clear advice: avoid drinking untreated lake water and enjoy breathing the clear air in the vicinity of the lake.

Keywords: geography, vulcanology, ecosystems, Native Americans, history.

References and more to explore
[1] Terry Knight: In the Clear. Bay Nature April-June 2013, 23 (2), pp.12-15 [Apr-Jun 2013 Issue:].
[2] DavisWiki: Clear Lake [].
[3] California's Lake County: Clear Lake [].
[4] California's Lake County: Mount Konocti [].
[5] Sierra Club: What's Going on with Clear Lake? Some questions and answers [].

Monday, March 25, 2013

Geographical renaming: from Kreisau to Krzyzowa

Kreisau was the seat of a branch of the Moltke noble family from 1867 until 1945. It was purchased by Helmuth Carl Bernhard von Moltke (1800-1891), known as the Prussian field marshal Helmuth von Moltke the Elder. In 1866, he received a considerable amount of money (200,000 Taler) for his strategic planning that resulted in a short and successful military operation during the Austro-Prussian War (Seven Week's War). In the following year, he used the money to purchase a manor in the Kreisau area in Prussian Silesia. Kreisau became known outside Germany when Helmuth von Moltke's great-grandnephew Helmuth James Graf von Moltke hosted an anti-Nazi resistance group at his estate. He was executed in Berlin-Plötzensee in January 1945 [1].

Like Breslau (→ Wrocław), Klein-Bresa (→ Brzezica)  and other places east of the Oder-Neisse line, Kreisau was renamed after 1945: it now is Krzyżowa, belonging to the Polish province (voivodeship) of Lower Silesia.

The former Kreisau estate is today owned by the Kreisau Foundation for European Understanding (Fundacja Krzyżowa dla Porozumienia Eurepejskiego, Stiftung Kreisau für Europäische Verständigung) [2]. An international youth community center has been launched there. It is sponsored on the basis of diplomatic notes between the Polish and German foreign ministries. Since 1990, annual summer work camps are taking place at Kreisau's  Berghaus.

Keywords: History, geography, languages, translation, public relation, diplomacy.

References and more to explore
[1] Jochen Thies: Die Moltkes. Biografie einer Familie. Piper Verlag GmbH, München, Ungekürzte Taschenbuchausgabe Oktober 2012; pages 77 and 316-320.
[2] Kreisau-Initiave: The Kreisau Foundation [].

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Geographical renaming: from Klein-Bresa to Brzezica

Klein-Bresa is a village in Silesia (Polish: Śląsk, German: Schlesien, Czech: Slezsko). After World War II, its name changed to Brzezica when the Allied (US, UK, USSR) powers signed the Potsdam Agreement in 1945.  This communiqué  put former German territories east of the Oder-Neisse line (identified by the Oder and the Lusatian Neisse rivers) under Polish administration. Today, Brzezica belongs to the Polish province (voivodeship) of Lower Silesia.

The German adjective “klein” in Klein-Bresa means “small,” indicating a small town or village. Big or small, almost all Silesian places underwent a name change after 1945 from a German/Silesian to a Slavic/Polish sounding designation. The name of the Silesian capital Breslau changed to Wrocław. During its history of over 1,000 years, Silesia has been at times more, but most of the time less autonomous. It has experienced various forms of policies and spoken dialects. An introduction to its complex and interesting history is available in three languages [1].

Klein-Bresa appears in Jochen Thies' biography of the Moltke family: Klein Bresa is mentioned as the location of a Moltke estate and also as a railroad link. Friedrich Ludwig Elisa von Moltke (1852-1927), a nephew of Helmuth Carl Bernhard von Moltke (known as the Prussian field marshal Helmuth von Moltke the Elder) and his wife Julie Zuckschwerdt (1862-1943) bought property in Klein-Bresa [2]. The Moltke estate in Klein-Bresa is not getting the same attention as the Moltke estate in Kreisau, where the great-grandnephew of the field marshal, Helmuth James Graf von Moltke (1907-1945) lived. The latter is known as a founding member of a resistance group based in Kreisau, Silesea. This Kreisau Circle opposed Germany's Nazi government. Helmut James was executed for treason by the Nazi government on January 23, 1945 [2].

Keywords: History, geography, languages, translation.

References and more to explore
[1] Trilingual History of Silesia:
[2] Jochen Thies: Die Moltkes. Biografie einer Familie. Piper Verlag GmbH, München, Ungekürzte Taschenbuchausgabe Oktober 2012; pages 141, 178 and 332.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Geographical renaming: from Breslau to Wrocław

Places change over the course of time; and so do their names [1]. An example is today's city of Wrocław (pronounced “rock-law”), located on the River Oder (Polish: Odra) in southwest Poland, which was known as Breslau (the ending “lau” rhymes with “cow”) until, at the end of World War II, the Allied powers agreed upon putting former German territories east of the Oder and the Lusatian Neisse rivers under Polish administration [2].

Breslau was the capital of Silesia, which for over a millennium experienced multiple influences and has been—as a whole or in parts—under Bohemian (Austrian Habsburgian), Czechoslovakian, German, Moravian, Polish and Prussian rule [2]. Notice that this is an alphabetical and not a chronological order. Breslau also had a large and diverse Jewish community [3]. Today, Wrocław is the capital of the province (voivodeship) of Lower Silesia. Visitors come for sight-seeing from around the world [4,5]. The way foreigners and tourists experience Wrocław may still depend on their background and biography.  For some it (still) is a haunted place and ghost town [5]:  spooky it may be, but it is not a deserted ghost town. Wrocław is a thriving city that has plenty to offer.

Keywords: History, geography, languages, translation.

References and more to explore
[1] Wikipedia: List of city name changes [].
[2] Trilingual History of Silesia:
[3] Polin Travel Jeweish Guide: Wroclaw [].
[4] Breslau (Wrocław) - Geschichte und Sehenswürdigkeiten [].
[5] Alex Webber: Wrocław, Poland's ghost town. The Guardian, October 30, 2009 [].

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

HLB, short for huanglongbing, Chinese for “yellow dragon disease”

Huanglongbing, also called HLB for short, is a disease of citrus plants [1]. The Chinese name “huanglongbing” means “yellow dragon disease.” Another term for this devastating disease is citrus greening disease, or simply citrus greening, due to the growth of green and bitter citrus fruits that drop prematurely [2]. Other names in use also refer to symptoms of this pest: citrus vein phloem degeneration (CVPD), yellow shoot disease, leaf mottle yellows and citrus dieback [3].

Huanglongbing is caused by gram-negative bacteria in the genus Candidatus Liberibacter that live in the salivary glands of the Asian citrus psyllid [1-6]. Psyllids and disease have now spread from China over India, South Africa and Brazil all the way to the Caribbean and into Florida and California, affecting commercial orange and mandarin groves around the world—except the Mediterranean basin.

A salivary toxin emitted by the gnat-sized psillids can deform leaves. The bacteria are transmitted into a citrus tree while psyllids drink sap from its leaves. The bacteria infect the circulatory system that transports sugars from the tree canopy to the roots. The result is  root blockage: the starving roots slow down in absorbing micronutrients and other substances from the soil and sending them to the canopy [2]. Weakened citrus plants will be more susceptible to stressors such as a cold spell or drought.

To contain huanglongbing, extra nutrients are fed to weakened citrus plants. In selected areas the Asian parasitic wasp Tamarixia radiata has been introduced to prey on psyllid nymphs and kill psyllids by drinking their blood. Also, nursery citrus trees are grown inside psyllid-proof screens. Are we going to witness a return of orangery greenhouses?

Keywords: biology, entomology, Hemiptera, plant pathology, epidemiomology, invasive species, insects, citrus industry, lemon, lime, pomelo.

References and more to explore
[1] Tim R. Gottwald: Current Epidemiological Understanding of Citrus Huanglongbing. Annual Review of Phytopathology 2010, 48, pp. 119-139. DOI: 10.1146/annurev-phyto-073009-114418.
[2] Anna Kuchment: The End of Orange Juice. Sci. Am. March 2013, 308 (3), pp. 52-59.
[3] Wikipedia > Huanglongbing [].
[4] Citrus Diseases, Huanglongbing (HLB) [].
[5] Citrus Pest & Disease Prevention Program [].
[6] USDA > Plant Health > Citrus Greening [].

Monday, March 18, 2013

A botanic garden acronym: CUBG for Cambridge University Botanic Garden

CUBG stands for Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Botanic gardens and arboreta always are great places to study plants, to follow their changes over the cycle of seasons and to get excited about biodiversity—or phytodiversity in this case.

What is so special about the CUBG is that it is backed up by a chemical trail: a virtual trail that provides quick access to a detailed, web-based description of selected flowers and trees and further identifies some plant ingredients,  chemical compounds, that play a role in and have been extracted for human uses. Drugs, dyes, and natural food additives are just a few examples. To explore the featured plants and substances, I recently published a post and some visual navigation tools:
Keywords: botany, plant chemistry, plant ingredients, phytochemistry, biochemistry, garden tour.

Question: Are there other gardens of this kind? See ResearchGate Question.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A term in chemistry: elementary substance

An elementary substance is a pure chemical substance that consists of atoms belonging to a single chemical element. Otherwise, if atomic species from different chemical elements are involved in composing a substance, chemists speak of a compound.

The term “elementary substance” is further used to distinguish a chemical substance that is composed of same-element atoms (atoms with the same number of protons in the atomic nucleus) from the chemical element itself. The latter includes all species of atoms (atoms, ions, radicals) that have the same number of protons in the atomic nucleus [1].  It has been suggested that only this latter concept should be employed when referring to a chemical element: the term “element” should be reserved to collectively designate all atomic forms of an element [2]. Then, any molecule-building or other combination of atomic forms of an element constitutes an elementary substance.

Example: The allotropes dioxygen (O2) and ozone (O3) are elemenary substances of the chemical element oxygen. Isotopically labelled dioxygen species such as [16O][17O] and other polyatomic species based merely on oxygen isotopes also are elementary substances. On the other hand, water (H2O) is a chemical compound, since it consists of atoms belonging to two different elements—oxygen and hydrogen.

Keywords: chemistry, chemical education, terminology, IUPAC definition, chemical element, chemical compound, homonuclear molecule.

[1] Gold Book: chemical element [].
[2] Rollie J. Myers: What Are Elements and Compounds? J. Chem. Educ. 2012, 89, pp. 832-833. DOI: 10.1021/ed200269e.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

German for casual travelers: Schon 'was zum Pennen?

Stay overnight: Zollhaus Bremen, Am Kaffee-Quartier 1, Walle, 28217 Bremen
Schon 'was zum Pennen? is short for “Schon etwas zum Pennen?
The vocabulary:
  • schon: already
  • etwas: something
  • zum: to 
  • pennen: to nap or to sleep
The question “...schon 'was zum Pennen?” is asking you, if you have found a place to stay overnight.  Painting and question are found at the south-facing wall of the Zollhaus Bremen, Am Kaffee-Quartier 1, Walle, 28217 Bremen.

This former custom-house (Zollhaus) in Bremen's  harbor district has been turned into a hostel ( With the slogan “Meet and sleep in Bremen,” the Zollhaus invites easy-going travelers to stay at this affordable hotel. Bremen's city center, the Weser river walk and biking promenade, the still developing harbor city (Überseestadt) as well as coffee shops, bistros, restaurants, pubs and other hang-outs are nearby—a short walk or bike ride away. Lots to do and not much time “zum Pennen.

Keywords: German slang, tourism, city of Bremen, harbor district.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

English-German word play: “umfairteilen” sounds like “umverteilen”

Word play to call for social justice
The adjective fair can take on various meanings in English, including the meaning of being honest, impartial and just—as in the phrase fair play. When used in German, fair has that meaning. The word fair sounds like the German prefix ver, giving rise to the word play of the trade-union banner above, where the verb umfairteilen is used instead of umverteilen. The meaning of the latter should become clear by comparing the meaning of the simple verb teilen with those of the composita that are derived by employing the prefixes ver and um:
  • teilen: divide
  • verteilen: distribute or share
  • umverteilen: redistribute
The verb umfairteilen has cleverly been constructed to ask for a fair redistribution of wealth. The text umfairteilen - Reichtum besteuern, displayed over the entrance of the Gewerkschaftshaus Bremen (trade union building in Bremen in northern Germany), calls for the redistribution of wealth via adjusted tax regulations. The noun Reichtum means riches or wealth and the verb besteuern means to tax.

Keywords: Wortspiel, word playSteuern, taxes; Politik, politics;  soziale Gerechtigkeit, social justice.

Detailed information on Germany's Umfairteilen activities and demands is given at