Trickle, Brook, Stream, River

Rain
Rain

When it rains water collects in little puddles and hollows in the uneven earth. Sometimes the water sinks into dirt until the dirt can hold no more and the water forms the puddle. If the rain continues to fall it forms a surface, rippled and blown by the wind. The puddle may be muddy, or it may be clear depending on whether the water is stirred enough by the wind or by an animal or maybe by a child, wrapped up for the weather and wearing rubber or plastic boots.

Some rain falls at altitude in mountains or hills and falls on rocks, trickling down into cracks and crevices. Some rain falls on plants and is absorbed or runs down to the roots and is absorbed by them. Such rain takes the shortcut back into the air as the plant pumps it to the leaves and it is expired into the air.

Rain on grass
Rain on grass

Much of the rain that falls is not seen again for a while. It trickles through the soil, through open spaces between and within rocks. Some it soaks into cracks which take it deep within the earth to aquifers which can hold the water for years, decades, or centuries. Some it soaks into soft and soluble rocks like limestone and can form caverns underground. Sometimes this water evaporates underground and creates the beautiful rock forms that we can stalactites or stalagmites.

Some of the water remains on the surface and is joined by water seeping through the soil or the rocks to form little streams. The visible part of the stream is not all there is to a stream. Most streams have rocky or pebbly beds, or gravel or sand beds and water flows through those, as well as the free-flowing visible water. Indeed, some streams are not visible at the surface with the water running under the pebbly bed. Unless the stream is in flood that is, when the water fills the channel perhaps to overflowing.

Wet rocks
Wet rocks

Up in the mountains or the hills the small trickles of water tumble over or under the rocks and gradually merge to form small streams. Water oozes from wet soil and sometimes springs from rocks where the aquifers reach the surface. Rocks stick up through the water, little waterfalls chute the water in glistening curves and air mixes with the water to produce little white water patches. Vegetation hangs over the little streams, moistened by the stream and dripping water back into. Water loving mosses abound, and trees dip their roots.

The stream is continually renewing. This is not the same steam that you saw here yesterday. That water has flowed on perhaps by now reaching the sea. This water was yesterday floating in the sky in the form of a fluffy white cloud, or a grey dense cloud, or merely as an unseen vapour, measured only by humidity. Gravity’s imperative call pulls the water down from the hill.

Moss
Moss

There may be life in the water. Small insects and similar tiny organisms survive in the tumbling water, and even smaller little animals, from single cells animalcules to tiny  multi celled beings live in it. They creep over the rocks and pebbles, feeding on debris that falls into the water or on little plants that also cling to the rocks, or each other.

As the stream progresses downhill it gathers more and more water from tributary trickles and merging flows. It deepens and flows over rocks which higher up it would have flowed around. Pools form and pools make it easier for life to exists. Maybe crustaceans and fish could now be lurking in the pools and even in the deeper less turbulent flows. Such life would also attract birds such as ducks.

Mandarin ducks
Mandarin ducks

All this life lives on a knife edge. A sudden storm upstream may swell the flow to many times the normal rate, moving rocks and boulders and even reshaping the banks of the stream. This would be a disaster for the wildlife in the stream sweeping it downstream and out of its usual environment into areas to which it is not adapted. Such storm events shape the little streams much more than the every day trickle.

A stream which I’m describing has a steep course. It may sweep past last stones and boulders and drop many metres for each dozen or so metres traversed. In many places it will reach places where the underlying geology changes and a waterfall forms or a cascade. A cascade is where the stream drops several metres in a short distance and the bed is full of boulders and rocks which may be totally or partial covered by the stream.

Cascade
Cascade

A waterfall usually drop into a pool caused by the water falling on and removing rocks and boulders. The spectacle of the drop and the pool makes it very attractive and people will sometimes hike for miles to see a waterfall.

As the stream becomes a river it becomes more placid. More life lives in it, it is broader and deeper. We can fish in it, float boats on it, and use it as a highway. We often live by rivers as they generally follow the easiest route through a sometimes tricky landscape. Large cities are more often than not found on rivers for this reason. Farmers on the banks of a big river want to trade with people up of downstream.

City of Vladimir
City of Vladimir

We tend to forget, in these days when we travel mainly by road, that rivers were once the prime highways, and indeed our principle roads frequently follow the route of a river.

As a river reaches lower altitudes it become more placid, as I have mentioned. People live next to it, and so they are in danger of flooding if a storm hits up river. A river is constrained by nature banks, but these many be breached. Consequently we have tamed many rivers, building large earthworks to constrain it to its usual course in the case of floods. However, the flooding of a river and the bursting of its banks deposits nutrients on to the soils around the river.

Floods
Floods

The ancient Egyptians knew this and worked with the annual flooding of the Nile. They developed geometry and mathematics to reinstate farm boundaries after floods. They also developed a legal system at least in part to legislate the inevitable disputes.

Nile floods
Nile floods

Trivia


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Most people know that bees make cells which are hexagonal to store their honey. As it says in the article, this is the most economical structure in terms of the amount of wax that is needed to construct it, as the linked article describes.

Some people go into raptures about how clever the bees are and assume that they have some instinct which guides them in constructing these almost perfect hexagons. In fact the cells start out round and the bees warm them to make the wax mobile and liquid tension does the rest.


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The same process occurs in bubbles in a bath. If the bubbles are all roughly the same size, they also form a hexagonal array. This sort of diminishes the mystery of the beehive and the seeming ability of the bees to do geometry, but it seems obvious in retrospect. Bees don’t know geometry but they do know (in some sense) the properties of beeswax.

The above is a prime example of trivia. As defined at Dictionary.com trivia is merely inconsequential information. However, it can be more than that, as while the information is (in most situations) totally useless, many people find it interesting and a few find it fascinating.

A Trivial Pursuit playing piece, with all six ...
A Trivial Pursuit playing piece, with all six wedges filled in. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For a very few people trivia can become lucrative and even a full-time occupation. The prevalence of quiz shows where people are rewarded according to their ability to recall inconsequential facts shows that the human race as a whole appears to have the ability to remember obscure facts which apparently have little to do with their needs as they navigate through their daily lives.

All humans remember items of trivia. Granny might be able to recall what her sister told her on her wedding day, or exactly what Grandpa said when he returned from the war, but these are probably of no relevance to her Grandchildren. Memory is fluid however, and Great Aunt Mary might have totally different memories of the occasion.

Cathy
Cathy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It may be that being able to remember trivia is one of the things that separates us from the rest of the apes. It would presumably be an evolutionary advantage to store great amounts of apparently irrelevant information because one never knows when apparently irrelevant information suddenly becomes relevant.

For instance, staring at the stars and noting their apparently irrelevant patterns suddenly becomes relevant when you notice that about the same time that that particular pattern rises in the sky that the whole river valley becomes flooded and it is time to temporarily move to the hills.


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Some people have minds that soak up inconsequential facts and others do not have that ability to the same extent. I know that my mind does so, and this has gained me invitations to join quiz teams and so on, and I’ve even managed to get onto a TV quiz show, though I didn’t do too well on it.

I’m constantly amazed at what trivia my mind has stored in it. When watching a quiz show on TV I quite often know the answer to obscure questions, and I’ve no idea how I picked it up. Sometimes it is something that I could perhaps only have heard once, in passing, and it for some reason stuck in my head.

Memory lane
Memory lane (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Memory is fickle though. Many times I have been asked a question or a question has come up on a TV show and I am sure that I know the answer but I’ve been unable to recall it. When the answer is given there is a sense of “Of course!”.

As I mentioned above, memory can be totally false as well. Often an answer to a trivia question will pop into my head, and I’m certain that it is right, only for it to turn out to be wrong. I’m left with a sense of disappointment that my memory is incorrect.


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Some people, call them Quiz Masters, are able to store and remember trivial facts much better than the rest of us. These people star in quiz shows, win prizes and travel the world on the strength of their abilities. It’s not necessarily a sinecure, as they constantly have to top up their knowledge by reading, well, trivia.

On occasions a Quiz Master will mention that they have “just revised” a particular topic. Or that one of their peers has just recently told them something that just happened to occur in a question. A true Quiz Master apparently has to work pretty hard to keep on top of the facts that may occur in a quiz, to the extent of studying facts about something that they have no real interest in.

English: Coronation Stone of the Saxon Kings o...
English: Coronation Stone of the Saxon Kings of England, Kingston Upon Thames, showing the name of Athelstan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I mentioned above that I have no idea why the human race has this ability to store all this useless information. It’s evident that animals remember things, as you would not be able to train your dog if it didn’t remember things. However, it seems to me that other animals do not have this immense capacity to remember seemingly irrelevant information.

Maybe this is part of what leads to out ascendance on this planet. With our vast stores of information about things around us, we can use this information to survive where other animals can’t. Maybe it is this vast store of information, the ability to recall it all, and the ability to use or brains to process and use this information that allowed us to become ascendant.

Information-integration
Information-integration (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe the Quiz Masters are the intellectual descendants of the proto-humans who worked out that when those stars rose in that place in the sky that the animals that were their prey would be migrating around that time, and it was a good time to visit the migration trails.

Whatever the reason that we have the ability to remember information that appears at the moment of remembering to be totally irrelevant, we can nevertheless enjoy that moment when the Quiz Master on the TV gets the trivia question wrong and we can triumphantly claim “I knew that!”, in spite of the fact that we didn’t know the answers to the preceding twenty or thirty questions.


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