Edges matter

Talk with a materials scientist, wildlife biologist or chemist long enough and eventually they will mention the importance of edges in our world.  Be it the edge of a catalyst or forest it’s the place where action takes place.  Reactions happen at the edge of chemical gradients, where one set of unique molecules comes in contact with a different set and interactions happen resulting in totally new molecules.  Some reactions are actually limited by how fast the different molecules can make it to the edge in order to associate.  One nature of successful catalysts is they have lots of edges, three dimensional spaces that provide lots of edges to cut down the waiting period for molecular speed dating.  Biologists discuss how edges improve species diversity, encouraging evolution as creatures adapt to the changing nature from one ecology to the other.  Notice how the deep forest has fewer birds than the trees around a meadow.  It’s not an accident.

Edges are so prevalent in our existence we usually don’t notice them while carrying on our daily lives.  But pay attention and they are right there, going about their work of improving the world’s ongoing existence.

Here’s an edge, for example.  From left to right there are four separate environments:  dry pebbly beach, damp pebbly beach, boundary where water swells forward and retreats, and under the water itself.  This is about two feet from side to side and on a gentle lake doesn’t change that much over time.  Each zone has unique characteristics – moisture levels, oxygen levels, light intensity.  If we could shrink ourselves down to near microscopic size like a superhero and wander around this realm what citizens would we encounter?

Edges are not limited to horizontal strips of our world’s surface.  Think of the multiple “-spheres” of our atmosphere, the ecological zones encountered as you mountain climb or the layers you pass through while sinking into the clear water of an alpine lake.  No need to self-shrink to perceive these – just keep your eyes open.

We wander through edges all the time, casually traversing areas unique to fellow citizens of our planet.  In each there is a beauty that is essential to their existence to be appreciated by ours.


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