book jacket

Have you heard of the book, "Where the Crawdads Sing"?

It is a debut novel by Delia Owens, a wildlife scientist and nature writer based in Idaho, that was published last summer and has since flown to the top of the New York Times' Best-seller List.

The RiverShare library system that serves the Iowa Quad-Cities region has 21 copies in regular print, five in large print and one on CD, and all are checked out.

As of late last week, there were 81 active holds on the regular print copies, 22 on the large print and seven on CD, said Lucas Berns, adult services librarian at the Bettendorf Library, who looked this up for me.

That makes "Crawdads" a pretty popular book!

And it comes from a surprising place.

According to her website, Owens was born in southern Georgia and loved writing from little-on. But as a career, she chose science, earning her bachelor's degree in zoology from the University of Georgia and her PhD in animal behavior from the University of California at Davis.

For 23 years, she lived in remote areas of Africa while she conducted scientific research on lions and elephants. Based on these expeditions and adventures, she co-authored three internationally best-selling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist.

The "Crawdads" title comes from her mother who encouraged Owens to explore the oak forests around her childhood home, suggesting she go "way out yonder where the crawdads sing."

The book is about a young woman, abandoned at age 10, who survives alone in the wild coastal marsh of North Carolina. For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet fishing village. In late 1969, when the popular Chase Andrews is found dead, locals immediately suspect her.

In the book, Owens juxtaposes an ode to the natural world against a profound coming of age story and haunting mystery, according to her website.

I bring this up because it seems "Crawdads" would be an enjoyable book for a lot of people, weaving together nature, mystery and a compelling story. I'll let you know if I ever get to the top of the "hold" list.

PLANTS AND CLEAN AIR: Our story last week about Perrine West's houseplants — the hundreds of plants she tends at her Bettendorf home — had me thinking about greenery.

So when I saw the headline in the The Atlantic debunking the link between houseplants and indoor air pollution, it leaped out at me. For years, I have read — and repeated — that in the late 1980s, NASA scientists found that indoor vegetation removes pollutants from the air. I have accepted this as true.

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But the article in the March 9 issue of The Atlantic reports on new data analysis indicating that that is not exactly right.

A NASA scientist named Bill Wolverton did find some promising results using plants to filter out VOCs — volatile organic compounds released by common household products such as paint, nail polish and drywall — from a hermetically sealed environment such as a spacecraft.

But new research by Michael Waring, an engineering professor at Drexel University, in Philadelphia, indicates that the power of plants has been overstated. "A home is not a hermetic chamber. It has open windows and doors, drafts and leaks and much more clutter," according to the article by Robinson Meyer.

"Recently, Waring and his colleagues reanalyzed all 195 studies that have examined whether houseplants can filter the air. They found that some types of plants can remove higher amounts of VOCs than others. But once you factor in the effects of working in a large room, none of the plants are able to do much," Meyer wrote.

What bothers me about this is not necessarily the new findings. I keep plants because they are beautiful, and I enjoy puttering around with them.

What bothers me is that whenever new science supplants old science, there are people who will say, "Ah ha! See, you can't believe anything science tells you." And then they will deny the valid findings in front of their faces, such as climate change.



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