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Nature picture of the day (warning, big pictures)

Discussion in 'Physical & Life Sciences' started by hasone, Jul 30, 2011.

  1. hasone

    hasone Newbie

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    I like pretty pictures. I like nature. I like science. This is a thread where all three can be in the same place. I'll be posting pictures (usually the Astronomy Picture of the Day), with some explanation of what they have to do with science. If I don't think today's APOD fits or is pretty enough, I'll probably post a picture of a strange/awesome animal that has scientific import. I won't be copying the APOD descriptions verbatim because they can get technical, I'll try to summarize. I ask people not to quote the pictures, because that'd make this thread unreadable and/or slow to load with lots of copies of the same big picture.


    Today's is the Astronomy picture of the day, which is a composite. It seems to be an attempt to demonstrate what the Milky Way would look like if we could see it all from one spot. Each half was taken in a different hemisphere. The s shaped light trail is because of dust from the plane the Earth orbits the sun around. The picture was obtained from two originals partially through a math/photography/art technique known as projection. That's why there's distortion at the edges, the original pictures were more circular. If you're interested in learning more, check out the Astronomy Picture of the Day website.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2011
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  2. hasone

    hasone Newbie

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    This is a picture of tube worms that live at the bottom of the ocean. The awesome thing about these is that they are part of an ecosystem that does not rely on sunlight for its primary energy input. Instead, they get their nutrients and energy from geothermal vents.
    They grow up to eight feet in length (each one here is at least a meter long. and have no mouths or digestive tracts, instead relying on bacteria to provide them their energy in a symbiotic relationship.
    The red tips have an interesting chemical use, and they have an interesting life cycle. I'd go on, but just read this http://www.seasky.org/deep-sea/giant-tube-worm.html
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2011
  3. Thobewill

    Thobewill Cthulu For President 2012

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    Those tube worms are a great model for possible extraterrestrial life, like on Europa
     
  4. hasone

    hasone Newbie

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    I never thought of that. That's certainly possible.
     
  5. Naraoia

    Naraoia Apprentice Biologist

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    While we are at APOD, here's one of the coolest things in the universe. The Voorwerp itself!!!

    The green stuff under the galaxy is Hanny's Voorwerp (Dutch for "object"), discovered in the Galaxy Zoo by a Dutch school teacher called Hanny van Arkel. Apparently it's a humongous (like, galaxy-sized) clump of stuff that "echoes" the light of a once active galactic nucleus that has since faded. Because the Voorwerp is quite a few light years from the AGN, it continues to glow long after the source of its light had stopped radiating.

    The Voorwerp (with its little cousins, the voorwerpjes) is a symbol of the awesomeness of citizen science to me. It's just so incredibly cool that perfectly ordinary laypeople can contribute to very serious science - and if they are lucky and observant, even discover completely new things.

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Naraoia

    Naraoia Apprentice Biologist

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    Oops, did I hijack your picture of today? I hope you don't mind! :eek:
     
  7. hasone

    hasone Newbie

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    Not at all! Saves me from having to post one today :) That thing is very cool indeed.

    edit: but I'm going to anyway because I just saw this awesome picture. coming right up...

    edit2: This is bismuth, one of the elements in the periodic table. I believe it's poisonous, and under the right conditions it forms these amazing crystals called hopper crystals.

    [​IMG]

    More info (and a big version of the picture) at http://www.amazingrust.com/experiments/how_to/Bismuth_Crystals.html. The way these things form is almost as cool as the picture itself.
     
  8. hasone

    hasone Newbie

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    Sorry, no picture today. I'll have three to make up for today and yesterday tomorrow.
     
  9. Naraoia

    Naraoia Apprentice Biologist

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    Oh wow, those crystals look seriously cool.

    While you are pictureless, how about...

    Polychaete reefs? (image source and more: guide to the exotic species of San Francisco Bay)

    These structures were built by the tube-dwelling worm Ficopomatus enigmaticus. They (the reefs, not the worms) can grow to several metres in size. F. enigmaticus is an invasive species, distributed all over the world thanks to its propensity to stick its tube to any hard surface, including ships. They have measurable effects on ecosystems where they establish themselves; for example, the worms' filter-feeding activity makes water cleaner.

    [​IMG]

    F. enigmaticus belongs to the same family of segmented worms that also boasts these amazing guys. Which is the same family that the subject of my PhD project comes from, so I'm understandably biased ;) (Though my babies aren't quite as spectacular as Christmas tree worms)
     
  10. hasone

    hasone Newbie

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    that's pretty awesome.it always amazes me how much life shapes our atmosphere, landscapes, and such.

    More pictures!

    Three for today:

    this first beauty is, well, first, gorgeous. Second, it's a nebula, and the different makeups of the different dust clouds and stuff are what make the striking colors. This is straight from astronomy picture of the day, (apod.nasa.gov/apod, the link will lead to a different picture after august 4, but you can navigate back to it ). If you click the picture there, if gives you a bigger version that looks even better.

    So first: [​IMG]

    And second, the a wider-angle look at the same area (which is just as gorgeous in a different way)
    [​IMG]

    Finally, another picture of tube worms! This is from the wikipedia article naroia linked
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2011
  11. hasone

    hasone Newbie

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    today, star trails! This is from long exposure of a frame (shutter left open a long time). The yellow trails are fireflies.

    [​IMG]
     
  12. hasone

    hasone Newbie

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    The last picture was so gorgeous I left it up a while. nothing to do with me being extra busy at work and too tired to update this thread. not at all.

    here's massive jets of material being directed by a black hole. the mathematics behind this stuff is just beautiful, but not as much as the picture

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Naraoia

    Naraoia Apprentice Biologist

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    While I was on holiday, I spent some time tearing my hair out over adapting a fractal drawing function for R. As a side-effect, I remembered how fascinating fractals were. So now that I'm back, I'll continue this thread with a natural fractal, the highest mountain range on earth (Source and more):

    [​IMG]

    (Also, I'm faced with an embarrassment of riches now. The web turns out to be full of amazing geological fractals. Which is not that surprising in the Google Maps age, come to think of it :D)

    Fractals are defined by their self-similarity - that is, they look the same, or similar, no matter how much you zoom in on them*. Nature is full of them, from the branching patterns of trees to the shape of coastlines. These strange shapes are infinitely complex**, but they can often be made by the repeated application of simple rules. That complexity naturally emerges from simplicity seems to me one of the central - and most mind-blowing - messages from the study of complex systems.

    *That's not strictly true - mathematically, fractals are defined by their dimensions, but "Hausdorff dimensions" and "topological dimensions" confuse me, so let's not get into that :p

    **True, abstract fractals are infinitely complex, that is. In the physical world, you can't have infinite complexity because matter is made of finite-sized parts. So technically, a river system or a tree isn't a true fractal, but they make good enough approximations to tickle those beauty sensors :)

    P.S.: I love the stars + fireflies picture.
     
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