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For this essay’s purposes, the most important ecological understanding is that the Sun provides all of earthly life’s energy, either (all except nuclear-powered electric lights driving photosynthesis in greenhouses, as that energy came from dead stars). Today’s hydrocarbon energy that powers our industrial world comes from captured sunlight. Exciting electrons with photon energy, then stripping off electrons and protons and using their electric potential to power biochemical reactions, is what makes Earth’s ecosystems possible. Too little energy, and reactions will not happen (such as ice ages, enzyme poisoning, the darkness of night, food shortages, and lack of key nutrients that support biological reactions), and too much (such as , ionizing radiation, temperatures too high for enzyme activity), and life is damaged or destroyed. The journey of life on Earth has primarily been about adapting to varying energy conditions and finding levels where life can survive. For the many hypotheses about those ancient events and what really happened, the answers are always primarily in energy terms, such as how it was obtained, how it was preserved, and how it was used. For life scientists, that is always the framework, and they devote themselves to discovering how the energy game was played.
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The greatest scientists readily admitted that the theories and data of physics, that hardest of the hard sciences, drew highly limited descriptions of reality, and those scientists were usually, to one extent or another, . If textbook science falls far short of explaining reality, what can be said within its framework that is useful? Plenty. Our industrialized world is based on textbook science and feats such as putting men on the Moon were performed within the parameters of textbook science. With the waning of overspecialization and overreliance on reductionism in the last decades of the 20th century, multidisciplinary works have proliferated and will tend to dominate the references for this essay. I have found them not only very helpful for my own understanding, but they are appropriate references for a generalist essay. I have also avoided scientific terminology when feasible. For example, I use “seafloor” instead of “,” and if a non-specialized term will suffice for a scientific concept, I will often use it.
The Triassic began hot and ended hot, and the Jurassic and Cretaceous were also hot, so staying warm was not a significant issue for dinosaurs. stayed cool by becoming aquatic, and for land-based dinosaurs, features such as plates apparently replaced the sails of for both heating and cooling, and like the synapsid sail, those plates may have also been used for display. Also, like the cliché, many large herbivorous dinosaurs lived near cooling swamps, although the issue has been controversial. Cooling swamps and protective water holes that we see in the tropics today were a major aspect of Mesozoic landscapes. But the thermoregulatory aspect that most work is directed toward today is how dinosaurs kept warm. There is compelling evidence that dinosaurs regulated their body temperature in myriad ways, including internal chemistry. All bipedal animals today are endotherms and they all have four-chambered hearts, as dinosaurs did. , dinosaurs living near the poles (, ), and of dinosaur bones all support the idea that , but one of the more intriguing areas is that of . Like tree rings, bones have seasonal growth rings and they have been read for many dinosaur fossils. They have been used to determine dinosaurian life expectancies. could live to be about 30, giant could live to be 50, and smaller dinosaurs, as with smaller mammals, lived shorter lives. The tiny ones only lived three-to-four years and the mid-sized ones lived seven-to-fifteen years. Growth rates also provide thermoregulation evidence. Tyrannosaurs had juvenile growth spurts and largely stopped growing as adults, and sauropods had growth rates equivalent to today’s whales, which are Earth’s fastest growing animals. But there is also evidence of ectothermic dynamics. The great size of dinosaurs would have led to relatively easy ways to stay warm, as large animals have a greater mass-to-surface area ratio, like the way in which . Also, in the generally hot Mesozoic times, staying warm would have been fairly easy, particularly for huge dinosaurs.
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So just write your e-mail addresss on the comment box below and we will send the essays on you e-mail address for free.ParentsDescribe the activities of religious people in your countryAct of selfishness that caused unhappinessA food store in your country suddenly closed and caused great troubleA rich man unexpectedly lost all his wealthWhat do you think people of your age can do to improve life in your country?The ideal schoolSomeone had a great disappointment that turned out to be a blessing in disguiseA servant or a worker was badly treated by an employerJealousyTime seems to stand still or go much too quicklyAdvertising exerts too great an influence on our daily livesKeeping fitDescribe an old couple outside your family who live an interesting and happy lifeIs it more important to enjoy your job than to earn a great deal of money?Describe the first hour of a day at schoolThe owner of a local business takes strong action when threatened by outside competitionYou just have one more chance to prove you can do itWaiting for the resultsKeeping coolWrite about occasions when you felt extremely boredHow important is it that people should marry and remain living together permanentlyAn unfair punishmentHe had been dirty, hungry and completely without help.
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But the branch of the that readers might find most interesting led to humans. Humans are in the phylum, and the last common ancestor that founded the Chordata phylum is still a mystery and understandably a source of controversy. Was our ancestor a ? A ? Peter Ward made the case, as have others for a long time, that it was the sea squirt, also called a tunicate, which in its larval stage resembles a fish. The nerve cord in most bilaterally symmetric animals runs below the belly, not above it, and a sea squirt that never grew up may have been our direct ancestor. Adult tunicates are also highly adapted to extracting oxygen from water, even too much so, with only about 10% of today’s available oxygen extracted in tunicate respiration. It may mean that tunicates adapted to low oxygen conditions early on. Ward’s respiration hypothesis, which makes the case that adapting to low oxygen conditions was an evolutionary spur for animals, will repeatedly reappear in this essay, as will . Ward’s hypothesis may be proven wrong or will not have the key influence that he attributes to it, but it also has plenty going for it. The idea that fluctuating oxygen levels impacted animal evolution has been gaining support in recent years, particularly in light of recent reconstructions of oxygen levels in the eon of complex life, called and , which have yielded broadly similar results, but their variances mean that much more work needs to be performed before on the can be done, if it ever can be. Ward’s basic hypotheses is that when oxygen levels are high, ecosystems are diverse and life is an easy proposition; when oxygen levels are low, animals adapted to high oxygen levels go extinct and the survivors are adapted to low oxygen with body plan changes, and their adaptations helped them dominate after the extinctions. The has a pretty wide range of potential error, particularly in the early years, and it also tracked atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. The challenges to the validity of a model based on data with such a wide range of error are understandable. But some broad trends are unmistakable, as it is with other models, some of which are generally declining carbon dioxide levels, some huge oxygen spikes, and the generally relationship between oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, which a geochemist would expect. The high carbon dioxide level during the Cambrian, of at least 4,000 PPM (the "RCO2" in the below graphic is a ratio of the calculated CO2 levels to today's levels), is what scientists think made the times so hot. (Permission: Peter Ward, June 2014)