Image: Flowers, by Alvegaspar CC BY-SA 3.0 via wikimedia.org
If you watch science documentaries like Nova or The Nature of Things, you might get the feeling that what’s most exciting about science is all the questions scientists have answers to – all the things we’ve learned about how our universe ticks. (It’s built right into the title of The Nature of Things.) But what I love most about science, and especially biology, is how easy it is to ask a question that we don’t have the answer to. Why are there so many species of beetles*, but so few of snakeflies? Why does life use a basic set of 20 amino acids, not 18 or 26? And one that has me completely stumped: why on Earth are flowers beautiful?
“Why are flowers beautiful” might sound like a trivial question, but I don’t think it is. Continue reading