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  • I was visiting the RISD Nature Lab the other day, and sat with a sophomore that was tending the front desk. Of all the samples of animal, vegetables, and minerals there, I asked, "Which of these specimens are loved the most?" She quickly answered, "Definitely the gourds." She pointed to a cabinet of differently shaped gourds, pods, and seeds.

    "Why is that?" I asked. She said, "Because they are 'enclosures' – they haven't become anything yet, and that makes them interesting."

    I've always been partial to butterflies, and there's a big cabinet of butterfly specimens. So I thought it strange that she didn't mention them at all. "But, how about the butterflies?" She smiled and said, "Well, butterflies are boring." And then her eyes widened, "But they're amazing when you look at them under the microscope! You can see all their feathers!"

    "Feathers?" I thought to myself. "What feathers?" So we went to a newly acquired high-end microscope in the facility acquired through our National Science Foundation (STEAM) work, and popped in a butterfly wing sample. And there they were – the little feathers she spoke of. "Aren't they cool?" she asked. I said, "Definitely." -JM
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