Lava meets water off the shores of Hawaii
Photos by Nick Selway
A Perilous Turquoise Beauty
In Indonesia, a volcano called Kawah Ijen towers up 2,600 metres above East Java. At its peak is the world’s largest acidic crater lake, 200 metres deep and filled with the brilliant turquoise flames of burning molten sulfur. This sulfur comes from an active gaseous vent on the lakeshore, and it is capitalized on by local mining operations: the gases are capped by a network of manmade pipes so that the sulfur consenses into a molten red liquid, which then solidifies into pure, bright yellow sulfur. Under the light of the moon, pitifully-paid miners trek up the volcano and face the noxious fumes with barely any protection, quarrying the rich, solid sulfur deposits by breaking it into manageable chunks. They then carry sulfur-laden baskets (weighing up to 90 kg) out of the crater and several long kilometres down to the weighing station—not just once, but several times a day. The sulfur is used in a variety of industrial processes, including vulcanizing rubber and bleaching sugar. Miners extract approximately 14 tons a day, which, incredibly, is just 20 percent of the volcano’s awe-inspiring daily deposit.
Under the microscope, Vignolini saw that the outer part of the fruit consists of three to four layers of thick-walled cells (labelled “1” in the image below). Each cell contains yet more layers, made of cellulose fibres. The fibres all run parallel to one another, but each layer is slightly rotated against the one above it, producing an elegant spiral.
As light hits the top layer, some gets reflected and the rest passes through. The same thing happens at the next layer, and the next, and so on. Provided the layers are exactly the right distance apart, the reflected beams of light amplify each other to produce exceptionally strong colours. The technical term is “multilayer interference”. Or alternatively: “Ooh, shiny!”
The Rainbow Eucalyptus trees on Maui, Hawaii
These haven’t been painted. The phenomenon is caused by patches of bark peeling off at various times and the colors are indicators of age. A newly shed outer bark reveals bright greens which darken over time into blues and purples and then orange and red tones.
That is glorious.
I’VE NEVER HEARD OF THIS THAT’S WEIRD
Guys, this is actually my favourite tree, I think it’s even my favourite plant in general!
This Enchanted Ent in Cumbria is only further proof that England is, indeed, Middle Earth. (Tommy Martin on flickr)
South American Leaf Fish (Monocirrhus polyacanthus)
An incredibly-adapted species, this fish is camouflaged to mimic a dead leaf, both in body shape and pattern. It can change colour to match its surroundings and has a projection from its bottom lip that resembles a leaf stalk. When hunting, it stalks its prey in a head-down stance, appearing to drift towards it like a dead leaf drifting in a current. When it strikes at an item of prey the entire mouth protrudes outwards, forming a large tube into which the prey is sucked, usually head first. This happens so quickly it is often difficult to see. It can swallow prey almost as big as itself in this way.