With increasing frequency, researchers are figuring out how and why nature does what it does. A springtime example makes several points in a memorable way as scientists explain early blooming. 

 In a new article summarized in ScienceDaily and published in Nature, researchers explain hwo they uncovered the molecular level events that warmth triggers in flowers. The findings explain why flowers bloom "early" when warmth is present. In short, a plant gene generates a substance that will bind to receptor cells when it’s warm outside, but will not bind when it’s cool. ("With warm air, a control gene, called PIF4, activates the flowering pathway, but at lower temperatures the gene is unable to act. What is striking is that temperature alone is able to exert such specific and precise control on the activity of PIF4," said Dr Phil Wigge.")  

Understanding molecular pathways is critical to knowing how and why nature does what it does. Knowing why flowers bloom may seem trivial in one sense. But, as the researchers pointed out, global warming means there will be increasing importance to understanding what crops are likely to do as temperatures rise. Fundamental research does matter.

The findings in flowers rather elegantly highlight two other big picture points relevant to the intersections between law and science. First, the findings about the internal influence of temperature highlights the reality that external environment does matter in terms of the course of cellular-level outcomes. Indeed, the findings illustrate that multiple factors at work in how and why our cells do what they do, and the factors go beyond DNA. Second, the findings highlight that small differences do matter, to cells. And that small difference makes all the difference at the results level. The fact that small differences can matter seems a good point to remember the next time sometime  is ridiculing EPA for worrying about and regulating "low-level" exposures to substances.