The Venus Flytrap: A Fascinating Carnivorous Plant

Previously, we’ve discussed beavers, giraffes, the fishing cat, and other fascinating creatures. In this month’s post we’ll be discussing the Venus Flytrap.

Before discussing the fascinating features of the Venus Flytrap, let’s briefly discuss pollination. This may seem like a digression, but it just might enhance your appreciation of the Venus Flytrap. Pollination is a particularly fascinating phenomenon: it is the process by which plants—almost entirely stationary living things—reproduce. Aided by insects, other larger animals, and wind, pollination involves the transfer of pollen from the male parts to the female parts of a plant (typically from the male anther to the female stigma of a flower). This in turn enables plants to fertilize and produce seeds, ultimately resulting in the production of offspring. To ensure survival through pollination, plants produce seeds and attract insects and other animals (pollinators). However, not all plants require other agents—wind or pollinators—to fertilize. Some plants are “self-pollinating”: they can fertilize themselves. Plants that require other agents to fertilize are called “cross-pollinating” plants.

While most plants attract pollinators to ensure fertilization, the Venus Flytrap, a carnivorous plant, attracts insects mainly to consume them. Why does this carnivorous plant consume insects? This is because the Venus Flytrap grows only in substandard soil. Since it cannot draw the necessary kinds or amounts of nutrients from substandard soil alone, the plant feeds on insects and other tiny animals. Remarkably, the Venus Flytrap is known to attract and feed on small-sized frogs, too. The plant absorbs nutrients from insects by digesting them. Oddly enough, fertilizing the soil it grows in kills the plant. Native to the subtropical wetlands of North America, especially North and South Carolina, the Venus Flytrap is highly selective about its prey. It typically feeds on beetles, spiders, and grasshoppers. Only occasionally does the plant feed on small-sized frogs.

How Does the Flytrap Snare Prey?

A Venus Flytrap at work
Image Credit: Dugeot

Trapping a crawling insect requires considerable energy, and the flytrap is a highly efficient plant. It shuts its trap only if it is sure that an insect is worth trapping and digesting. The plant’s inner surface consists of small hairs, and the extremities of the plant’s leaves complete its trapping structure. The plant closes its trap when a crawling insect comes into contact with one of the small hairs. It does not digest its catch until it is sure it has trapped an insect worth digesting.

The Craze to Collect and Domesticate the Flytrap

Widely collected by curious admirers, the Venus Flytrap is currently a vulnerable plant. The plant survives remarkably well in open, subtropical conditions, drawing nutrients from the air, the soil, and insects. Collectors have had to figure out the best means to grow the Venus Flytrap in domestic settings, and this has partly made it vulnerable. Reportedly, collectors have even tried to feed hamburgers to the plant, which results in indigestion, infection, rot, and eventual death. Similarly, the feeding of over-sized prey—that is, prey larger than the plant’s trapping system—also tends to cause deadly infections: the portion of the prey outside the closed plant contracts bacterial infection, which eventually also kills the plant.

What Teachers can Do

The Venus Flytrap is an extremely fascinating plant. Few other things pique student interest as much. If you are wondering how to instill in your students a penchant for preserving the environment, a field trip to a greenhouse is a great idea. Just remember to take them to a greenhouse that grows the plant. Students can witness firsthand what it means to care for and preserve a fascinating, yet vulnerable, living organism.

What Are Hybrid Vehicles? 101

Recently my students and I were discussing hybrid vehicles, and I was quite surprised to learn that most students tend to associate cars (almost exclusively) with hybrid technology. When in fact there is a range of hybrid vehicles. Indeed, from casual conversations over the past couple of weeks, it seems to me that even many adults mainly associate cars with hybrid technology.

Another key takeaway from this discussion was that any mention of hybrid cars (not all hybrid vehicles) almost always provoked discussion about their impacts (good and bad) on the environment. However, claims from either side seemed unsubstantiated–and even unsubstantiable–in many instances. In other words, there doesn’t seem to have been much fruitful public discussion about the environmental impacts of hybrid cars, though there have been many studies in this context. For instance, this simple article presents some of the most commonly discussed issues related to the environmental impact of hybrid cars.

This post is not about the environmental impact of manufacturing and using hybrids. It is a post about hybrid technology itself. In other words, we’ll be addressing the more basic question “What are hybrid vehicles?”

Hybrid Vehicles

Hybrid vehicles are vehicles that use more than one type of power. Most hybrid vehicles use an internal combustion engine and an electric generator. The former generates motive power by burning fuel—typically gasoline or oil—to release hot gasses. The gasses in turn drive pistons and aid other essential tasks. Internal combustion engines require air to burn fuel and release hot gasses. Electric generators, on the other hand, are used to power electric motors in hybrid vehicles.

How Do Hybrids Work?

How exactly do hybrid vehicles work, and why are they becoming increasingly popular? In a nutshell, hybrid vehicles are popular because of their energy efficiency. This is because electric motors are more efficient than internal combustion engines when it comes to producing torque. On the other hand, the traditional internal combustion engine is more efficient than the electric motor at maintaining high speeds. This is why most hybrid vehicles consist of the electric motor and the combustion engine: they are activated at different speeds, and in a complementary manner. In fact, hybrid vehicles are at their most efficient when the switch from the electric motor to the combustion engine and vice versa is optimally timed. Since they are energy efficient, hybrid vehicles are also typically fuel efficient. However, energy efficiency does not always guarantee fuel efficiency.

Illustration of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle
Image Credit

What Powers Hybrids?

Hybrid vehicles are powered by petrol or diesel, hydrogen, solar energy, wind energy, electricity, radio waves, and electric batteries. Combustion engines are also capable of handling solid combustibles, such as coal and wood. Hybrid vehicles, therefore, are quite versatile in that they can be operated using different sources of power. Some of them are also human-powered: that is, they tap energy and power generated from activities such as pedaling and rowing. Some hybrid cars also employ ways to store braking energy in a battery, thereby enabling minimal energy wastage and increasing efficiency. In addition, electric motors do not consume energy when they are idle. They also do not consume much energy at low speeds. Unlike vehicles powered solely by electricity, hybrid vehicles do not need to be plugged in.

So What’s the Deal with Hybrid Technology?

Hybrid technology has been successfully tested in vehicles as diverse as cars, trains, ships, aircrafts, cycles, and mopeds. However, it is still being refined and studied; with cars, especially, its fuel efficiency and energy efficiency are not particularly remarkable. At least in the US, hybrid cars cost significantly more than gasoline-powered vehicles. In addition, the former have been found to be only 20 percent more efficient than the latter. Nonetheless, hybrid cars are undoubtedly the most gasoline-efficient cars. Hybrid vehicles have the potential to become more “green” and fuel efficient with time. It may not be the answer to the global energy crisis, but it could alleviate the problem.

Simple Tips To Make Editing Easier

Students often wonder what it means to write solid essays and term papers. Almost unanimously, they agree that good writing and good editing go hand in hand. Yet they find it difficult to edit their papers uncompromisingly. This is partly due to the fact that editing is a demanding task and students write many essays over the course of a semester. Given this, students–and teachers–should understand that not every essay can be thoroughly edited before submission. This is of course not to say that students can afford to skip the editing process altogether. Rather, it is to call students’ attention to the most important aspects of editing. In other words, the non-negotiables.

Things To Keep In Mind

Foremost, the first draft is never the complete article, no matter how good it is. When you re-read your draft you will inevitably find ways to improve it, both in terms of grammar and structure.

So read you draft at least twice to ensure you improve your paper grammatically and structurally. Though this may seem like too much work, it is actually quite simple to edit for grammar and structure separately. Most people use their first go at the draft to edit for structure and their second one to edit for grammar. Compartmentalizing saves time, reduces stress, and improves the overall quality of your essay.

Second, don’t be demoralized if you think your paper lacks structure. In fact, editing for structure almost exclusively involves moving paragraphs and sentences around. A good paper usually presents a sound argument, and a sound argument takes work. Besides, every writer, no matter how good, spends time editing for structure. Indeed, many believe that one can’t become a good writer without the ability and willingness to edit for structure.

If you want to make the rearranging part less stressful, use short, simple sentences wherever possible. This is a great way to weed out the fluff and develop clarity. It also helps us become better thinkers.

Clarity Can Improve Grammar

Using short, simple sentences is also a great way to improve grammar and avoid grammatical mistakes. Besides, simple sentences are also better understood by word processors, which means their suggestions to improve grammar are more likely to be accurate.

In fact, addressing issues highlighted by your word processor is often enough to improve the quality of your paper. For in-depth remedial suggestions and plagiarism checks, use an online tool. Be sure to make a note of the remedial suggestions, so you can apply them to your writing.

Conceptual clarity is equally important. In other words, it is essential to realize that essays can have different learning objectives. For some essays, students might only be required to summarize key arguments from the prescribed reading materials. In this case, you need not form a thesis or provide a scholarly opinion (this is usually expected of your final term paper, not your weekly essays). You only have to present key facets of the argument developed in your prescribed reading materials. Though you may not be required to cite external materials, you can still rely on primers and study helpers to better understand your primary texts. If you’re in doubt about the learning objective, check with your teacher or professor.

The Omicron Situation: Was It Avoidable?

The emergence of the new Omicron variant represents the latest stage in the trajectory of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Could this unwelcome development have been avoided?

In short, yes, it could have been. No matter what one’s views about the WHO, the organization has been cautioning countries against vaccine hoarding. The WHO also highlighted the huge gap in terms of the equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. Rich countries not only stockpiled vaccines to ensure their citizens got the two doses but also hoarded vaccines in anticipation of a development that might require them to have a third shot, the booster shot. That situation has now unfortunately come to pass.

Immunologists and public health experts too had suggested that no one is safe unless a majority of the world’s 7 billion are inoculated with at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Calls for the just redistribution of vaccine stocks were routinely ignored and sometimes openly ridiculed. In hindsight, this was not just a call for just redistribution but a plea to ensure the gradual, if not swift, containment of the pandemic globally.

Without enough shots to go around in the developing world (many parts of Africa, South Asia, and South America), the virus still had a high number of people it could affect. The more people it can target, the higher the chances of mutation. Even until September 2021, many level-headed public experts acknowledged the possibility of a new variant that could evade immunity proffered by inoculation and natural exposure. Nonetheless, they maintained that it was an unlikely scenario.

The initial findings about the transmissibility of Omicron and its ability to cause breakthrough infections in those vaccinated with two doses are not promising. If anything, they are troubling. Omicron has led to a record surge in cases in the UK, but with more than 20 percent of the eligible population having taken the booster shot, the number of deaths and severe illnesses might be mitigated. However, in large countries like India, Brazil, and China, a surge in daily cases might well overwhelm their healthcare systems. Though China has managed to fully vaccinate an astonishing number of its population, the lack of natural exposure, it is argued, could further reduce the efficacy of Chinese vaccines.

Similarly, at the time of writing this article, India has vaccinated just about 40 percent of its billion-plus population with two doses. And given Omicron’s higher transmissibility, India could face a devastating third wave which might once again overwhelm its healthcare. The situation could be similar in Brazil.

Omicron and the Anti-Vaccine Stance

Another trouble aspect of Omicron’s emergence is the ammunition it provides to those who believe that Covid-19 vaccines are unnecessary. This, too, is a situation that could have been avoided had countries agreed to redistribute vaccines in a just manner. People now argue that if two doses aren’t enough, one might as well remain unvaccinated. By passively allowing the emergence of Omicron, we have given ourselves a very significant setback.

Thankfully, the best ways to fight the pandemic still involve masking, physical distancing in indoor settings, avoiding crowded settings if possible, and hand hygiene.

What Makes Beavers Special?

It has long been argued that humans are superior to animals on account of their ability to create and use tools. Non-human animals, on the other hand, are not capable of creating or using tools to change aspects of their habitat or to achieve their ends, or so the argument goes. Beavers, however, do just that: they are remarkably adept at transforming landscapes and felling tough, strong trees. What’s more, they do so using just their teeth and jaws—not exactly external tools, but, quite undeniably, a superhero-like natural power.

Strong In Water And On Land

Being semiaquatic, they are swift on land and in water. In fact, beavers possess large rear webbed feet, which makes them competent swimmers. They also possess the ability to stay or navigate underwater. These characteristics in turn enable them to build dams and canals. But why would these rodents want to build dams and canals? They do so to keep predators at bay and to transform subpar habitats into “beaver lodges.” These lodges are typically made of wood (large chunks of logs and branches) and mud, and are usually located at the center of beaver-made pools or ponds.

A pensive beaver
Image Credit: hippopx

The logs are obtained by felling trees, and the pools and ponds are created by damming flowing water. Beavers can also turn dry fields into ponds for their lodges. Their ability to transform landscapes is unrivalled in the animal world. Evidently, beavers are extremely strong rodents. In fact, they could be considered the poster-animal of the vegan population: they consume only leaves, roots, twigs, or bark, yet they are strong enough to perform these superhero-like feats, thereby effectively dispelling the myth that herbivores are weak animals.

Beavers Are Not Parasitic Fellers

Beavers fell trees not only to build dams but also for food. Despite this, beavers have a positive impact on the ecosystem. Although beaver ponds may kill some submerged trees, these trees sometimes become standing dead wood, which is essential for the sustenance of a wide range of animals and plants.

An immaculately constructed beaver dam
Image Credit: Grand Teton on flickr

Made of wood and covered with mud, beaver lodges are very strong structures. Beavers fortify their lodges for winter by covering them with fresh mud during autumn. The fresh mud then freezes over during winter, thereby strengthening their lodges. Contrary to popular belief, ponds created by beavers tend to have cleansing effects: they tend to remove pollutants and sediments from waterways. Beavers, as depicted in cartoons, are extremely busy and twitchy creatures. They are also extremely fast workers. Being primarily nocturnal, they have been known to fell large trees and build dams and lodges overnight.

Did You Know?

Some beavers, much like humans, are monogamous.

Young beavers are called “kits,” and  one-year-old kits are called “yearlings.”

In Praise of Eliud Kipchoge: A Fan’s Account

Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge is commonly hailed as the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) marathon runner. By successfully defending his Olympic title at Tokyo (Kipchoge also claimed a gold at Rio, 2016), he has only further cemented his credentials as the most exciting distance runner.

Hyperbolic praise usually tends to inspire mistrust of those doing the praising as well as the one being praised. In Kipchoge’s case, however, the hyperbole seems appropriate–in that, it does not really feel hyperbolic to call him the greatest marathon runner of all time if one looks at the feats he’s achieved.

There is of course the INEOS 1:59 run in which Kipchoge became the first human to break the 2-hour barrier in the marathon, a feat that was, until then, considered impossible. Sports scientists were even certain that athletes wouldn’t stand a chance of breaking the 2-hour barrier till late in the 21st century.

Kipchoge hitting the last 200 meters in the INEOS 1:59 Marathon run
Image Credit: Triathlet 79

Enter Kipchoge: The INEOS run was his second attempt to break two hours in the marathon. He was helped by elite, world-class pacemakers (national and continental champions), a meticulously designed running formation to minimize wind resistance, a moving car throwing green light on the road to help the pacers and Kipchoge keep track of the pace required to break two. For these reasons, Kipchoge’s INEOS run, despite being the fastest marathon run by a human, is not considered the official world record time for the distance. Nonetheless, Kipchoge does hold the official world record with a time 2:01:39, which he set in September 2018.

In the context of the INEOS run, there is also the matter of Kipchoge using a customized version of Nike Vaporfly shoes called AlphaFly. Several experts have claimed that the shoes enhance performance a little too much, and that the use of these shoes in competitive races should be considered “technology doping.” For a good introduction to this issue, see this page. However, Kipchoge is an athlete for whom a 2:10:00 marathon counts as a “comfortable run.” In fact, he usually finishes comfortably under 2:05:00, and given his official world record, the INEOS run doesn’t really seem farfetched. Sure, Kipchoge had assistance, but he still did all the running, and he ran at a blistering pace: his slowest 5k split was 14:13, and he averaged 14:10.8 per 5k over the marathon.

This is blistering speed, and the 5k split is fast enough even to finish on the podium of some challenging, elite 5k races.

Though the Olympic marathon was held in Sapporo to avoid the heat and humidity of Tokyo, the conditions there were not exactly friendly. There were several high profile DNFs (Did Not Finish), as many elite marathoners succumbed to Sapporo’s heat as the day wore on. Kipchoge broke clear of the leading pack around 32 kms, leaving American medal hope Galen Rupp far behind. He finished with a lead of over 400 meters, and more importantly, that trademark Kipchoge smile we’ve all become used to.

Kipchoge smiles when he hits what marathoners call the “pain tunnel,” a feature of the race that can either make or break an athlete. At this point, it requires enormous will power and gumption to cajole the mind and the body to perform the repetitive motions that make up running. When Kipchoge beings to smile, it surely means he is dealing with pain, and the smile, he argues, often tricks his body into doing more. It is also the smile that neatly ties in with his mission to inspire 3 billion people to take up running.

Kipchoge dressed up for a photoshoot.
Image Credit: Kevin.Clancy414

In a pandemic-ravaged year, Kipchoge, at 36, returned to the Olympics and successfully defended his marathon gold; during his post-race speech, he emphasized his belief that no human is limited, and urged more people to take up running.

Despite winning some of the biggest prize-money marathons, Kipchoge still leads a simple life–almost monastic–in Kenya, putting in the hard yards, doing chores, and eating healthy food. Given his drive, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kipchoge pushing for another marathon gold in Paris 2024.

Giraffes: Some Interesting Facts

Previously, I’ve written about raccoons, fishing cats, and anteaters. Looking up animal facts and writing about them has been one of my stress-busting techniques. With editing work piling up and my irritability quotient on the rise, this month I’ve decided to write about giraffes–I’m sure my colleagues and friends would appreciate a less grumpy me.

Giraffes are remarkable creatures. They are the largest living terrestrial animals, and their elongated necks is one of the main reasons for their size. Most adult giraffes are 4.5 to 5 meters tall. As if this in itself is not remarkable, their necks make up nearly half their total height. In addition, they are equally adept at surviving in dense forests as well as open plains. Despite their size, giraffes can gallop very fast and are known to reach speeds as high as 37 miles per hour. This is all the more remarkable since adult males can weigh as much as 4,250 pounds; adult females, on the other hand, can weigh upto 2,650 pounds. What’s more, their necks, too (just like ours), are made up of just seven bones.

Giraffe possibly looking right at the camera
Image Credit: Marina Shemesh

Giraffes Are Strong and Tenacious

Giraffes are also very busy creatures; they spend most of their time feeding. According to this official estimate, giraffes tend to spend 16 to 20 hours per day just feeding. More surprisingly, they only require 5 to 30 minutes of sleep per day. Moreover, much like camels, giraffes can survive on very little water. This explains their capacity to survive in dry, open plains. Given their size and speed, giraffes might have made excellent predators. These gentle giants, however, are herbivores. In fact, giraffe calves are especially vulnerable to predation; they are hunted not just by lions and leopards—the usual suspects—but also by smaller predators such as hyenas. Even crocodiles are known to target calves. Adult giraffes, however, are rarely attacked by predators on account of their size and strength. However, not many infants make it to adulthood due to extensive predation.

Poaching and Other Threats

Giraffes are also widely poached for their meat, hide, and tail. While their extraordinary size dissuades predators from attacking them, giraffes are an easy target for poachers precisely because they are so large. Poaching is not the only human activity that threatens their existence: population explosion, expansion of agricultural land, rampant industrialization and urbanization have driven giraffes away from their preferred habitats. As a result, some giraffe species are not just threatened but are critically endangered.

The Two-Heart Myth

In addition, it has recently been suggested that giraffes may have an extremely strong, supercharged heart—one that is strong enough to pump blood all the way up the animal’s two-meter-long neck. In addition, the heart is also strong enough to withstand significant pressure exerted by the amount of blood in the giraffe’s neck. However, giraffes do not have two hearts, as some people would like to believe. In fact, giraffes have a surprisingly small heart despite their size. Unsurprisingly, however, their hearts are lined with extremely thick walls that provide strength and enable proper circulation.

Misleading Headlines: A Concern

While consuming my daily news feed, I stumbled on this BBC article titled – “Why cutting down trees can be good for the climate.” Bewildered, I visited the article to give it a close read. The link had a three-minute video and a modest three-sentence explanation of a large-scale razing of trees aimed at the restoration of an ancient ecosystem.

The video explains that Forestry England has been on a tree-felling operation in the Kielder forests of Northumberland in England. The primary objective of the operation is the restoration of bogs in Border Mires (a collection of 58 peat bog sites adjacent to Kielder). Bogs are freshwater wetlands that accumulate peat, partially decayed vegetative or organic matter. They are generally found in cool Northern climates and are usually formed by poorly draining lake basins created by glaciers.

The restoration is an attempt to reverse the historical wrongdoings of power and greed. Due to wartime demands for timber, the Forestry Commission engaged in a massive afforestation program across Northern England. Subsequently, the boglands were drained to give way to trees that occupied the peripheries, leaving only the central wetlands untouched.

Why are boglands important?

Boglands play a key role in preserving ancient floral species, some of which are estimated to be around 12,000 years old. Typically, the wetlands are 15m deep and support diverse organisms. Boglands are also exceptional carbon sinks, and can store carbon for thousands of years. The plants that die in a bog do not rot completely: that is, they do not release all their carbon into the atmosphere. Mosses like Sphagnum contain 90% water and help moderating flows and reducing flash floods.

Why is the title problematic?

The Border Mires project is necessary to rejuvenate an efficient ecosystem, even if it comes at the cost of chopping down some trees. However, the problem lies more in the titling of the article than the tree-felling itself. The title does not mention bogs or the reason for the razing. While the deforestation program was important to Northumberland, the lack of specificity in the title and a generalizing statement could have a detrimental effect on the reader.

An article titled “How Headlines Change the Way We Think” by Maria Konnikova shows that misleading titles can prevent readers from grasping the true message of a report. In the age of social media and the internet, the abundance of information makes headlines a key determining factor for readers. Konnikova writes, “By drawing attention to certain details or facts, a headline can affect what existing knowledge is activated in your head. By its choice of phrasing, a headline can influence your mindset as you read so that you later recall details that coincide with what you were expecting.”

Pediatric Mental Health During Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown have had disastrous effects on general well-being, enforcing tremendous adjustments in daily life. The effect of the pandemic on children’s social, mental, and emotional health is equally, if not more, worrying. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed contexts unique to the pandemic and the challenges these pose to children, which include physical distancing from family and friends, virtual learning environments, the grief of missing celebration and vacations, food insecurity, and the increased exposure to violence and online harm.

How Has Lockdown Affected Children and Adolescents? 

The findings of a study titled “Psychological Effects of Quarantine on Youths” reveal that 85.7% of parents observed changes in the emotional and mental state of their children. With increased digital and screen time, reduced physical activity, and long hours of sleep, the common changes observed in children were as follows: difficulty in concentrating (76.6%), boredom (52%), irritability (39%), restlessness (38.8%), nervousness (38%), feelings of loneliness (31.3%), uneasiness (30.4%), and worries (30.1%).

Another study conducted across 47 US states from March to October highlights that, compared to 2019, mental health-related emergency visits increased by 24% for children aged 5 to 11 and by 31% for teenagers. Various studies have found that social isolation and loneliness can cause depression up to nine years later.

Is Reopening Schools the Solution?

The Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, has been chalking out plans for the reopening of schools. It is understood that reopening elementary schools is a top priority. The state officials cited the deteriorating mental health of students as one of the main reasons behind the decision.

While child healthcare experts believe that a return to schools and classrooms could ameliorate children’s mental health, they also point to a pressing problem at hand: the overburdened pediatric mental health care system.

Massachusetts has had a pediatric health care crisis even before the pandemic, with inadequate numbers of pediatric therapists, outpatient mental health services, and in-patient psychiatric beds.

The pandemic seems to have exposed the shortcomings of every aspect of our public health system, including our less-than-adequate understanding of children’s mental health. The pandemic should be seen as an opportunity to improve funding for and management of public schools and pediatric care.

Lawrence – The Spectacular

Filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu once said – “To make a film is easy; to make a good film is war. To make a very good film is a miracle.” Such was the miracle of watching the Lawrence of Arabia (1962), directed by English filmmaker David Lean. Starring Peter O’Toole (as Lawrence) and Omar Sharif (as Sherif Ali), the film won seven Oscars. This piece is no movie review; it’s just a bunch of thoughts I’ve had about the film’s production process.

The film is about Thomas Edward Lawrence, the British archaeologist and army officer, and his famous desert exploits of uniting the warring Arab tribes in opposition the Ottoman Turks. From the desert adventures across the Arabian Peninsula to the capture of Aqaba and Damascus, the film serves as a good history lesson to understand World War I and its consequences in the Arabian Peninsula. Thus, it is a significant confluence of art, cinema, and history.

The film has a runtime of 227 minutes, and it patiently captures the beauty, timeframe, and expanse of the desert. The desert sequences in the film were shot in Morocco, Jordan, and Spain. In the words of O’Toole, the crew had a long filming schedule in the deserts of Jordan alone: “It took nine months in the desert of Jordan. We lived in tents; occasionally I had a caravan. We’d shoot for about 10 to 12 days, and then we’d have two or three days off.”

One of the most spectacular aspects of the movie is the cinematography by Freddie Young. The movie used a Super Panavision 70 camera and a 70mm film instead of the regular 35mm. The 70mm film helped capture the vast expanse of the desert and provided incredible sharpness. Young’s constant camera shuffle between close shots to capture emotions and wide pan shots for battle, long camel travels, or the campsite is a delight to watch.

One of the iconic scenes in the movie involves the introduction of Sherif Ali. In the scene Ali is dressed in black, positioned 2-3 miles away from the camera, and slowly rides his camel toward Lawrence. The camera’s capture of the mirage in this instance is phenomenal. The logistical difficulties involved in pulling off this shot are elaborated in depth by Cinematyler.

The film took three years to make and required an investment of USD 15 million. It is as much a triumph of gumption as it as cinematic marvel: just think of the large number of camels, horses, technicians, and human resources that had to be mobilized in the desert terrain to make this film possible. With most of the “spectacle” moving to the post-production phase with the help of the green screen in recent times, the Lawrence of Arabia, filmed in real, challenging conditions, is a remarkable outlier in the history of cinema. Arson Welles once said – “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” However, it could be argued that it was the absence of limitations that helped David Lean achieve the spectacular.