Saturday, January 30, 2016

Waggle Dance

Upon return from foraging or scouting, female worker bees dance on the honeycomb in a physical language of pattern and duration to inform the colony.

Honey bees share consequential information about promising sites for nectar, pollen, water and new nesting locations by following a choreographed waggle dance (figure A).

A clockwise sweep, a vibratory body waggle, followed by a counterclockwise sweep, completes a figure-eight pattern (e.g., Bee Dance video).
"The more highly the little scout bee values her property, the more dance circuits she performs, and the more as-yet-uncommitted scout bees she attracts to her site."
Thomas D. Seeley
The direction the worker dances, relative to the orientation of the hive, indicates the direction of the suggested site (figure B). If she moves vertically, the suggested site is located in the direction of the Sun.

The duration of the waggling section of the dance indicates the distance to the site. Karl Von Frisch, who studied the sensory perceptions of honey bees, was first to interpret the meaning of the waggle dance.
“The bee's life is like a magic well: the more you draw from it, the more it fills with water”
Karl Von Frisch


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Earth Tone Eyes

Imagining living organisms turned to stone is sensory and poetic in light of the asymmetric direction of time careening from the Devonian over 350 million years ago, into the epoch of industrialized humans called the Anthropocene.
"What we do see depends mainly on what we look for. ...In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them."
John Lubbock, The Beauties of Nature
Petoskey Stone
image: Michelle Pemberton
Considering a highly polished Petoskey stone, one imagines Earth tone eyes peering from hexagonal sockets.
"You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus."
Mark Twain
Petoskey stones are fossilized rugose coral. Rugosa are an extinct order of coral that thrived during the Devonian.

Fossilized coral is commonly found near the town of Petoskey in Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

The hexagonal sockets were once the coral's mouth, now frozen in time.

Close-up Petoskey Stone
image: Michelle Pemberton

"Time is the longest distance between two places."

Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Glass Tears

Kīlauea lava fountain
by C. Heliker, USGS
Solids are crystalline or amorphous.

Minerals, the building blocks of rock, are intricately structured crystalline solids. But glass is amorphous at an atomic scale.

Vitrification, from the Latin vitreum meaning glass, is the transformation from an atomically structured material into non-crystalline amorphous glass.

Discrete chunks of lava spewed airborne from a lava fountain, like the fountain in the active shield volcano Kīlauea, can rapidly cool and solidify into amorphous spheres and tear-shaped glass.
Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears.
Edgar Allan Poe
Vitrified lava found in the vicinity of Halemaʻumaʻu Crater (within the caldera of Kīlauea in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park) is known as Pele's tears. Pele is a goddess in Hawaiian mythology.

Pele’s tear found on the rim of
Halemaʻumaʻu Crater
image: USGS/HVO

Pele's tears originate from molten lava cooled and fused into tear-like drops of glass.

The Halemaʻumaʻu Crater is home to Pele the goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes. Pele is believed by some to be the creator of the Hawaiian Islands.
"I am fated to journey hand in hand with my strange heroes and to survey the surging immensity of life, to survey it through the laughter that all can see and through the tears unseen and unknown by anyone."
Nikolai Gogol


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Moonlit Journey

The word plankton is from the Greek planktos meaning errant wanderer or drifter.

Aquatic ecosystems support plankton in the form of tiny aquatic animals called zooplankton.

Zooplankton are conveyed by currents, but many species have a means of locomotion. Locomotion is often used by zooplankton to forage and to avoid predatory consumption. Zooplankton move by the paddling of cilia, antennae, and jointed appendages, or by muscle contractions creating jet propulsion.

by Cindy Jo Mendoza

Light-induced migration of zooplankton in arctic marine environments during winter's absence of sunlight was once believed to be non-existent. Recently marine scientists have observed reflected moonlight and lunation causing predictable zooplankton migration cycles.
"During the permanently dark and extremely cold Arctic winter, these tiny marine creatures, like mythical werewolves, respond to moonlight by undergoing mass migrations."
― Kim S. Last, Scottish Association for Marine Science
During sunlight-starved winter months, zooplankton use their means of locomotion to travel downward to greater depths on a daily cycle as the moon rises above the horizon. The zooplankton also sink en masse from the surface to depths of about 50 meters (164 ft) every 29.5 days corresponding to the reflected light of the full moon.

It is believed this downward moonlit journey gives zooplankton the cloak of darkness to avoid predation by carnivorous marine life and birds.

Ctenophores, commonly known as comb jellies
source: University of California Museum of Paleontology

"[...] it is a strange thing that most of the feeling we call religious, most of the mystical outcrying which is one of the most prized and used and desired reactions of our species, is really the understanding and the attempt to say that man is related to the whole thing, related inextricably to all reality, known and unknowable. This is a simple thing to say, but the profound feeling of it made a Jesus, a St. Augustine, a St. Francis, a Roger Bacon, a Charles Darwin, and an Einstein. Each of them in his own tempo and with his own voice discovered and reaffirmed with astonishment the knowledge that all things are one thing and that one thing is all things—plankton, a shimmering phosphorescence on the sea and the spinning planets and an expanding universe, all bound together by the elastic string of time. It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again."
John Steinbeck


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Constant North Star

The North Star has been a traveler's navigational guide in the Northern Hemisphere for all of recorded history.

Polaris (Alpha Ursae Minoris), another name for the North Star, appears fixed in the night sky. Polaris is positioned as an extension of Earth's axis projected from the Geographic North Pole. To an observer standing near the North Pole, Polaris would be directly overhead.
It is a celestial accident that Polaris is located over the Earth's Geographic North Pole.
Barry López
Because of Earth's rotation and the position of Polaris, all other stars appear to rotate around Polaris. Long exposure photographs reveal what appear to be star trails about Polaris.

As Earth rotates, stars trails appear to streak the across the sky, anchored about Polaris, in a long exposure photograph.
image: Robert Knapp

There is no comparable star located on a line along Earth's axis projected skyward from the South Pole.

As a constant in celestial navigation, Polaris has had many names throughout the course of recorded history. The name Polaris gained acceptance during the 17th century Renaissance. Polaris is a Latin word meaning of or near the pole.

Polaris appears in stellar catalogs as far back as the time of Ptolemy ~ AD 169.

Case Of You
Joni Mitchell

Just before our love got lost you said
"I am as constant as a northern star"
And I said "Constantly in the darkness
Where's that at?
If you want me I'll be in the bar"