Look at an oak tree and ask yourself, “where did the stuff of that tree come from?” Imagine an acorn in your hand and think about it growing by sending roots into the earth and shooting stems, branches and leaves toward the sky. Imagine this little tree growing bigger and taller until it is 72 feet tall, about the height of a three-story house, and weighing fifteen tons or 30,000 pounds. That’s a lot of wood, leaves and roots, and the question is, where did it come from? Take a moment to think about this question? Do you have a theory about where the substance originated? Long ago, almost 400 years ago, in the year 1634, Jan Baptist van Helmont, a Flemish scientist, asked a similar question. He wanted to know where the stuff of oak trees, onions, bamboo, pumpkins, kale, tulips, blueberry bushes and all other plants came from. It is easy enough to see where the substance of animals comes from. Many animals eat plants and they build their bodies from the matter in the plants they eat. But, with the exception of the carnivorous plants such as the venus flytrap, most plants have nothing that seems […]

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