Written By: David Lord
My inquisitive 8-year-old nephew and I like to discuss scientific topics on a regular basis, whether it is about the explaining the motion of race cars, the impulse experienced when jumping on a trampoline, or more recently the question about where the name Fall comes from.
Where did the name Fall come from?
If you are like me, you probably are doing the same Google search that I did. This can save you some time. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, “Poets continued to be wowed by the changes autumn brought, and in time, the phrase “the fall of the leaves” came to be associated with the season. This was shortened in the 1600s to “Fall”.
My nephew and I then got to have some laughs about how things fall down all of the time, so shouldn’t the whole year be the Falling season. We discussed the concept gravity, and how it affects all object on Earth, whether it is motorcycle making a jump or leaves falling from a tree.
As you may imagined, he had a thoughtful follow up question:
Why do some leaves change color, but some leaves stay green year-round? Aha! I know this one! Many organisms have pigments (no, not mints for pigs, but that would probably make them less stinky) that give them color. For example, in humans, one factor that plays a role in our skin color is the pigment melanin that can make the skin darker in color. In plants, they have chlorophyll, which gives many leaves their green color. These pigments play a vital role to the plant’s survival. These pigments take energy from the Sun and use a process called photosynthesis to make yummy sugars that we find in corn, pumpkin, and yams. Plants do not produce just one pigment. They have accessory pigments that help the plant absorb different colors of light and help regulate the energy the plant receives.