Sign up for my email list to get the latest newsletter!

Real Life Fantasy: The Eyes Have It

Fans have sent us a couple of awesome pics of eyes recently. Granted, one is a gnarly eye disorder and the other is a symptom of a liver disorder, but they’re at least cool to… uh, see.

First (and most spectacularly) we have pigment dispersion syndrome–also known as going red wight! I’m resisting the urge to find out if this guy’s name is Andross:

From an article in Ars Technica (link in photo and above)

Next up are Kayser-Fleischer rings:

From the Wilson Disease Association website

A fan (who is also a medical student) sent us an email about it, saying, “In some types of liver disease, the body absorbs too much copper and can start depositing it into tissues. One susceptible tissue is the Descemet’s membrane, which is part of the cornea between the iris and sclera. It results in a discoloration near the iris that forms a ring, kinda like this:”

We also have a slightly more optimistic bit of news about mammalian vision to share with you: turns out we have three photoreceptors in our eyes, not two (rods and cones)!

Granted, the research surrounding this particular revelation started in 2002, and the Nature article is from 2011, but still. From the article:

“Foster and his collaborators had done nothing to treat the woman’s blindness. Instead, her awareness of light owed itself to a class of light-sensitive cells discovered in 2002. Studies of these intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) have since revealed many surprises. Scientists initially thought that, rather than contribute to vision, the cells simply synchronized the circadian clock, which sets the body’s 24-hour patterns of metabolism and behaviour, with changing light levels. However, recent work suggests that ipRGCs have been underestimated. They may also have a role in vision — distinguishing patterns or tracking overall brightness levels — and they seem to enable ambient light to influence cognitive processes such as learning and memory.”

And, in case the title of this post sounds familiar to you, it’s thanks to Uncle Philip. Until next time, friends!

Real Life Fantasy: Sun + Water – Heat

Hey, look what’s back–Real Life Fantasy!

It’s been a while, so in case you’re not familiar: Real Life Fantasy is a feature where we explore phenomena in the Seven Satrapies that have crossed the spectral plane into the real world.

Or something like that.

This time around we’re looking at some optical physics: what happens when sunlight shines through water molecules in the atmosphere. While most of us are familiar with how water droplets refract sunlight–

Wing-Chi Poon – Jasper National Park, Canada

–here’s what happens when light is refracted through ice crystals in the atmosphere.

Lt. Cindy McFee – Public Domain

The photo above shows two pretty awesome sights: the first is diamond dust, those white specks hovering above the person’s head. Those are tiny ice crystals in the air, reflecting sunlight at just the right angle for the camera to capture it.

The second phenomenon, seen in both the photo above and below, is a parhelion, or sun dog: bright spots, usually diamond-shaped, flanking the sun.

As explained in the Wikipedia entry, parts of the 22° halo (the arcs passing through each sundog), a sun pillar (the vertical line) and the parhelic circle (the horizontal line) are also visible.

Similarly, there exists a fog bow, or “white rainbow,” which happens when light is refracted through… wait for it… fog.

(I snapped this picture a couple years ago, standing in my backyard. Yep, that’s a barn. Look closely and you’ll find faint colors in the fog bow.)

Looking at these photos, I can’t help but wonder what it looked like to Gavin and the Third Eye…

Show Spoilers

Something prickled on his skin, the lightest of touches. He looked over at the Third Eye.

She was grinning like a little girl. He didn’t understand. Then something touched his arm. He brought it close, but it melted before he could get a look at it. Snow?

It was cool tonight, but it wasn’t cold enough for snow. Not even close.

He could smell it now–the familiar mineral, chalky odor. Blue luxin.

More hit his upturned face, his arms. It was snowing.

“Blue delights in order,” the Third Eye said. “I know you can’t see it, but every flake is blue. Utterly beautiful, Lord Prism. I’ve never seen so stunning a harbinger of doom.”

-The Blinding Knife, p162

 

Real Life Fantasy: Hemocyanin, and the colors of blood

So we’ve been talking about the history of the color blue, and one shade in particular: murex purple. Turns out that [anthropologists and archaeologists believe] blue was the last color category to enter the human lexicon, and was likely the last color to be distinguished/perceived by human eyes.

"Tangerine Moon and Wine Dark Sea," Milton Avery, 1959.
“Tangerine Moon and Wine Dark Sea,” Milton Avery, 1959.

PLUS, there’s one particular shade of blue (or indigo, depending) that is derived by extracting the blood from thousands of little ocean snails, oxidizing it, and dyeing fabric with it to create a mystical hue known as tekhelet, Tyrian purple, or (as mentioned above) murex purple, which was once more valuable than gold–partially because it became brighter when exposed to sunlight and weathering.

In the beautiful mosaic of 20th-century art and science, it was discovered how and why the blood of many earth critters can manifest so many beautiful hues.

Hemoglobin is what we humans (and most mammals) have as a means to carry oxygen to the cells in our bodies. It uses iron molecules to get the job done.

Hemocyanin, on the other hand, uses copper to do this same job in many sea creatures, including crabs, lobsters, and of course, sea snails.

Wait, copper? Like, the stuff pennies were made of?

Yep.

So how do we get blue dye from copper? I bet you’re asking.

Oxygen, and sunlight. Really! When copper oxidizes*, it turns a greenish-bluish shade.

What do you mean, you don’t believe me? You’ve seen the Statue of Liberty, right?

That French beaut is made of 3/32 in copper, protected by a lovely patina. Totally rockin’ that look, Lady Liberty!

But here’s the part that was news to me: some animals have green blood! Others have purple blood! This Vox article explains this phenomenon well.

Thanks Compound Interest for the graphic!

 

There’s no mention of animals being able to draft, though. I thought for sure there would be some mention that dissection revealed these creatures were packing luxin… Huh, I just realized sub-red drafters give whole new meaning to “packing heat”!

Okay, I’m gonna stop there.

 

*Thanks for making us do all those redox equations in AP Chem, Ms. Johnson! That knowledge finally came in handy! 😉

 

 

 

 

Real Life Fantasy: Prussian Blue & Murex Purple

In our last installment of RLF, we talked about the history of the color blue, which hopefully was enjoyed by my fellow art history enthusiasts out there.

If you were not one of those fine folks… You may not find this one intriguing either. It’s more about the color blue, along with how artists have procured and created it.

The first link is from Fast Company, specifically focusing on Prussian Blue (HERE). It is considered the first synthetic color, in that it wasn’t extracted from minerals or plants (or animals, as we’ll discuss in a bit). Prussian Blue was discovered in 1704 by German chemist Heinrich Diesbach; it’s cochineal + iron sulfate + cyanide = C18Fe7N18. (The Wiki page on Prussian Blue is a fun little rabbit hole for chemists out there.) As the article points out, this new shade of cerulean meant that the ultra-expensive ultramarine was no longer necessary for painting with blue. Which basically means without Diesbach, Picasso would probably have been some schlub painting everything Rose.

Picasso's "The Tragedy," from his Blue Period (1900-1904).
thank you pablopicasso.net

“Wait,” you may be thinking, “What does this have to do with chromaturgy, or the Seven Satrapies?”

The second link is from the LA Times, about Murex Purple (HERE).

“Wait!” you say. “I recognize that phrase… Isn’t it the color

Show Spoilers

Liv wears to signify herself as a superviolet drafter once she joins the Color Prince? *shakes fist at our favorite misunderstood traitor* And then becomes her signature color once she becomes Ferrilux?”

Wool dyed in various colors extracted from the Murex trunculus snail. (Moshe Cain)

Yes. Yes it is.

Murex purple, or tekhelet in Hebrew, is created–long story short–by extracting the blood from thousands of Murex trunculus snails, then exposing it to full-spectrum sunlight. Without the sunlight, the purplish “ink” turns fabric yellow. We know that this is because the blood contains hemocyanin, a respiratory protein that delivers oxygen to organs in many species of mollusk, including Murex trunculus.

a banded dye-murex (hexaplex trunculus)
(c) Aleksander Golemaj

Astute readers will notice the similarity of the word “hemocyanin” to “hemoglobin”… and will recognize that “cyan” in the middle is also the name of a shade of blue.

“WAIT!” you shout to your screen. “What is hemocyanin again?”

Ah ha! Patience, grasshopper. We are building the foundation for that.

Next time.

Real Life Fantasy: A Brief History of Blue

The color blue has a pretty awesome place in human history. Many professional smartypantses [archaeologists, evolutionary biologists, historians, et al] believe humans evolved the ability to perceive the color, in a gradual shift from bichromatic to trichromatic vision. Last time we shared a bit of Real Life Fantasy, it was mentioned that there’s no word for the color blue in ancient languages (including Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, among others). The coolest evidence of this lack is in Homer’s version of The Odyssey, in which he describes the sea as “wine-red” rather than any shade of blue. And if our man Homer didn’t even have a word for blue, it seems safe to expect that none of his friends had the word either.

But luckily for Ironfist, and Cruxer, and Samila Sayeh, blue started showing up in Egyptian jewelry around 4,000 BCE, and in pigment (known now as “Egyptian Blue”) around 2,200 BCE.

Egyptian Juglet, ca. 1750–1640 B.C. (Photo: Met Museum, Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1922. (CC0 1.0))

Multiple shades of blue–including ultramarine and cobalt blue– were being used by artists centuries before the era of the Seven Satrapies. By the time Gollaïr and Solarch show up around 142 anno lucidonius, they have a full complement of blues from which to choose.

Small sculpture of a young blue dragon
“Blue Morpho,” Windstone Editions

ANY way,  this entry into RLF canon is an article from My Modern Met–the website for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. There they talk about blue’s place in art history (which is to say, human history). It’s brief, and beautiful.

classic Vermeer portrait of a young woman wearing a blue headscarf
Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring

 

Real Life [and a tiny bit of] Fantasy: Colors, Seen and Heard

 

 

We’re a bit late on this one… But if you haven’t ever listened to the Radiolab podcast (produced by WNYC/NY Public Radio), let us recommend you start with one of their most popular episodes, about colors.

 

They talk a little bit about the history of color perception. They also dive into how different creatures perceive color (because some species have more receptors than we do, and some have less), and how they use that perception for more than just visual communication.

A mantis shrimp. These critters have SIXTEEN different light receptors in their eyes!

My favorite part of this episode is their use of choral music to represent rainbows! It’s a delightful way to spend an hour.

And while this particular entry isn’t relevant to Lightbringer by itself, it is the first of an ongoing series where we explore the history of color. Which is to say, the next few entries will build upon one another in some unexpected and lovely ways.

Take care, friends!

Real Life Fantasy: A Perfect Rectangle… Of Ice

I’m pretty sure we know where to find Aliviana Danavis: the Larsen C ice shelf. You can’t hide from us, Liv!

What the Heck Is the Deal With This Weird, Square Iceberg?  [Hey, Live Science, pretty sure that’s a rectangle, not a square.]

 

Credits: NASA/Jeremy Harbeck

 

Thanks to NASA ICE for sharing this!

Geometric cleaving: it’s not just for Bismuth anymore! (More on Bismuth next time. Y’all are gonna love it.)

Real Life Fantasy: Animal Vision In Ultraviolet

Happy 2019 friends!

We are so excited to share the buttload of cool [BLEEP] we found with all of you. Also, you should know that Jefe is in the weeds editing, and we’re wading through the tall grass and cattails cheering him on. Gooooooooo Jefe! 

At any rate, Real Life Fantasy is back with a couple of mind-bending articles from Live Science, about animals that can see in ultraviolet:

A scorpion glowing pale blue against a black background

Cats and Dogs Can See In Ultraviolet

Butterflies Use UV Vision to Find Mates

There’s even a piece in The Atlantic about animals that not only SEE in ultraviolet, but they GLOW in UV light as well. And here you thought you were so clever with your black velvet Hendrix poster and your empty Amaretto bottles full of water and highlighter filament. *tsk*

Real Life Fantasy: Black FIRE!

You ever notice that fire doesn’t cast a shadow? I mean, it seems obvious that a light source wouldn’t specifically have its own shadow, right?

Well, guess what?

This guy at The Action Lab shows you how to reveal the true nature of that fickle plasma. Yeah, we see you, fire–and your charred, malevolent heart. Fire can, in fact, absorb certain wavelengths of light (under the right conditions).

Without further ado:

Kinda makes me wonder if

Show Spoilers

lightsickness (especially after drafting black) is due to a lack of electrolytes. Like, here, Gavin, drink some of this Gatorade and everything will be A-OK, you devil.

Real Life Fantasy: Physicists Are Drafters!

The first ever photograph of light as both a particle and a wave

Light, or visible electromagnetic radiation, is a fascinating and tricksy type of energy (not as tricksy as dark matter, but that’s another story and shall be told another time). It exists as photons (a type of particle) that resonates in a wide range of frequencies–which is why it is sometimes referred to as both a particle and a wave. While direction, wavelength, and polarity can very greatly (and in turn have a host of effects on life on Earth), its speed is constant, and the fastest in the known universe.

If you’ve read Lightbringer, some of this will at least sound familiar. Likewise, you’ll remember that the magic system in Lightbringer is light-based, wherein drafters can turn light into matter–specifically, a wondrous, spectacular substance called luxin.

But it’s all fantasy, right? Mined from the deep well of curiosity in Brent’s cerebrum?

Well, as it turns out….

Experiments Underway to Turn Light Into Matter

I always thought physicists were the most badass among scientists.

The theory that drives these experiments is the Breit-Wheeler process. It’s not new; Gregory Breit and John A. Wheeler devised the theory in 1934. It’s kind of a riff on what is arguably the most famous (and perhaps famously misunderstood by the general population) equation discovered by the big guy himself, Einstein: E=mc². From the article: “The theory of the Breit-Wheeler process says it should be possible to turn light into matter by smashing two particles of light (photons) together to create an electron and a positron.”

So it’s not exactly sucking light in through your eyes and propelling solid matter out of your body. But a journey of 1,000 miles and all.

Further reading:

The first model for capturing and condensing light under realistic conditions

New particle might make quantum condensation at room temperature possible