You, a reader of my blog, are now enjoying new and improved(?) scenery at the top of the page courtesy of my recent trip to Acadia National Park. Pictured is what I believe to be minuartia groenlandica, or the mountain sandwort. Translated further, it is a plant (wort) that lives in alpine to sub-alpine environments amongst granite ledges and the gravel that results from those ledges’ erosion. Aptly named and described by its wiki, I think, since this is exactly the kind of place I found it. It is relatively rare in Maine because the state is on the southern end of the flower’s range and the environment that it likes isn’t found in too many places there. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (more specifically the Bureau of Geology, Natural Areas, and Coastal Resources within the aforementioned Department1) says that it hasn’t had a documented observation of one of these since 2002. This suggests to me that either they haven’t bothered looking, or 2002 is when the particular webpage I am looking at was written. Maybe both of these things are the case.
Anyway, I found all this out by searching the Internet, which is fantastic. I know that statement kind of makes me sound elderly, but I think anyone with half a measure of curiosity should be able to take a step back and wonder at the combination of clever technologies that allows me to start with a digital picture, type “tiny white flower Pemetic Acadia National Park” into Google, find a picture of the same flower captioned “mountain sandwort” on the hikenewengland.com webpage, type “mountain sandwort Acadia” into Google to get to a pdf describing “Focus Areas of Statewide Ecological Significance: Acadia East and West”, which gives me the scientific name of the flower, etc, etc. Real life is science fiction. Sort of. I suppose I won’t be truly mesmerized until I can snap a picture of something relatively obscure like this flower, have my camera wirelessly transmit that picture to a server on the internet, which will run a sophisticated image analysis algorithm on it to identify the flower, compile the sum total of human knowledge on that flower, attach a few other pictures of the same species and related species for reference, and zip all that back to me in, say, a quarter of a second. You can actually do this with Google Goggles, but it works only a very small subset of the world so far. Until they get their act together2, I will have to find other things to marvel at. Shouldn’t be too difficult.
1 Bureaucracy, what bureaucracy?
2 I mean, come on, right? Clearly, they are just twiddling their thumbs down there in Silicon Valley.