Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Peanut Files

The last two posts (#1)  and (#2) weren't really meant to tease you, but to overcome your natural tendency to actually stop, get a piece of paper and pen, and draw something.  You're surfing the net and your fingers are only supposed to be tapping the keys.  So I wanted to get at least a few of you to break that pattern and draw a peanut.

You can still do that.  I'll leave some space and if you don't scroll down you won't see the peanuts.

I'll put my peanut drawing up again, so you don't see what's below until you've drawn your own peanut.  We can wait while you do that.

Don't scroll down until you've drawn your own peanut.  (Of course, I have no power to stop you from scrolling down, but I think this will mean more if you draw first.)

OK.  Now let's look at some peanuts closely.  Let's start with the ends, because they're different.

One end - the top in the picture above - has a little hook, a parrot beak.  

The other end - on top in this second picture - has what I'm calling a navel, a little dimple.  The two ends of the peanuts are connected by ribs that go from the navel to the hook.  I counted ribs on about five peanuts and there seemed to be nine or ten.  They're not exactly straight.  You can seem them best on the upper photo.

And between the ribs are little weblike patterns, which I assume help make the peanuts harder to crush.  You can see them better in the next picture where I've taken the same peanut and put it through a few different Photoshop filters so that different ridges and edges would be emphasized.

So now my drawing of a peanut looks pretty simplified.  As I wrote in the previous peanut posts - that this isn't really about peanuts, it's about knowing things and about being observant.  But as I was typing this post I was thinking it had much more application than just that.

  • We have the notion I mentioned that when we can label something, we stopping 'seeing' it.  The first time you get a peanut (or meet someone) you check it out to figure out what it is and how to recognize it next time you see it.  But once that's done, we tend not to look too closely.
  • This holds true for all the things we've named (or labeled).  As soon as we recognize it's a peanut we're satisfied.  We don't necessarily go beyond that simple first drawing of a peanut.  Instead they all look the same.  (Remember, in the picture immediately above, they are all the same peanut.)
  • But really the idea of a peanut is much more complicated - the two different kinds of ends where the ribs all meet.  The weblike designs between ribs.  If we look closely we can see that each peanut is unique, though we may have to look pretty closely to see the differences.
  • And I suspect that our ideas about health, ethics, nature, politics, and everything else are also prematurely identified and labeled and then not really examined too carefully after that.  

And you thought this was just going to be about peanuts.  Well, so did I.  But that also helps make my point about looking at things closely opens up new possibilities in areas we thought we knew.  Like when Alaska gained a huge Japanese market for fish roe after a Japanese visitor watched how the salmon were being cut open and the roe was thrown away.  He asked why and Alaska fishers discovered that they were throwing not just roe away, but lots of money, because there was a demand for roe in Japan.

When I tried to find out more about the structure of peanut shells, I wasn't too successful.  Most of what I found was about the molecular structure, not the actual peanut shells themselves.  But there are lots of uses.  In India - peanut ash is used in producing concrete.  And ground peanut shells can also be used to absorb dye from liquids.  And Google has a patent to use ground peanut shells for insulation.

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