Photosynthetic Neighborhoods

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Photosynthetic Neighborhoods by Henry S. Horn is a piece featured in Princeton’s 2013 Art of Design online gallery. In it, the “artist” – professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton – contrasts the cellular cluster of plant leaves with an aerial photo of an American neighborhood. He writes:

Leaves carry out photosynthesis in clusters of cells locally serviced by end-units of pipes hat deliver water and take away sugar. The cells must be within diffusion distance of pores to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen. Diffusion may set an upper limit on the size of an efficient cluster, and quasi-fractal branching of pipelines may set a lower limit. Accordingly, many species of local woody plants show photosynthetic clusters of approximately uniform size, and these clusters themselves group hierarchically into neighborhoods of successively larger sizes. The photo fields are 4 millimeters wide, except for the aerial photo of human neighborhoods.


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