Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Tonight I saw the first firefly of the season.  It was during that interlude between twilight and dark, just as the light had disappeared enough to reveal that momentary burst of color.

I love fireflies.  They remind me of those carefree times of childhood, when we ran about to catch them in a jar and then marveled at their unworldly ability to generate light from nothingness.

Years of graduate school in biochemistry taught me the chemical reactions involved.  But after all the molecules of ATP and luciferase are spent, the mystery remains.

My first biochemistry professor was from Baltimore.  He told the story of how he would earn spare change in the summers by collecting fireflies for Dr. Albert Leninger at Hopkins.  Leninger was the scientist who figured out the biochemistry of fireflies.  He paid my would-be professor a penny apiece.  I'd like to think that the firefly in my yard tonight is a relative of those from Leninger's laboratory.  And so the circle is completed.

There don't seem to be as many fireflies these days as there used to be.  Chalk it up to global warming, pesticides, loss of habitat or whatever.  I hope the fireflies find a way to survive these challenges and the ever-present children chasing them.

The world would be worse off without fireflies.

The Appearance of Reality:


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