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Archive for the ‘Real Life Fantasy’ Category

Real Life Fantasy: Heat-reactive metals

When we shared that crazy rectangular iceberg a while back, we said there would be more about bismuth in the next RLF entry.

Oops!

I’m cheating a bit with this entry, and directly quoting the online Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for bismuth:

“Bismuth is a rather brittle metal with a somewhat pinkish, silvery metallic lustre. Bismuth is the most diamagnetic of all metals (i.e., it exhibits the greatest opposition to being magnetized). It is hard and coarsely crystalline. It undergoes a 3.3 percent expansion when it solidifies from the molten state. Its electrical conductivity is very poor, but somewhat better in the liquid state than in the solid. With respect to thermal conductivity, it is the poorest of all metals except mercury.

“Although it does not tarnish in air at ordinary temperatures, bismuth forms an oxide coating when heated and is oxidized rapidly at its boiling point of 1,560 °C. The yellow colour of this oxide distinguishes it from those formed by other metals. At red heat, bismuth reacts with steam, but it is not affected by cold, air-free water; it combines directly with sulfur and with the halogens (fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine). The element is not attacked by hydrochloric acid, and only slightly by hot sulfuric acid, but it is rapidly dissolved by either dilute or concentrated nitric acid.”

The bold and italic sentence above (emphasis mine) is what makes bismuth so dang cool.

TL;DR –

a chunk of elemental bismuth
A chunk of regular old bismuth.

 

WHOA! Rainbow bismuth
And this is rainbow magic oxidized bismuth!

 

Similarly, here’s what happens when you expose bars of titanium to different wavelengths of light:

Found this gem on Reddit a while ago. Link in pic.

Speaking of Reddit, I also found a video of a person torching a brick of pure copper: https://bit.ly/2TrWsrP]

The thing is, oxidation does some pretty wicked things to many of the elements found on Earth… And thermodynamics (ie heat, or the lack thereof) changes everything. The amount of heat needed to catalyze a chemical reaction depends on the element or compound, atmospheric pressure, density, volume, etc.

Aaaaand, as some of you may know, we humans have trace amounts of several metals in our bodies–each essential to our good health.

LiveScience comes through again! Thanks y’all.

Calcium (that’s right, calcium is a metal!), cobalt, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, sodium, and zinc are the primary metals found in humans. They also produce distinct colors when exposed to heat, or used to create compounds. Or both. Cobalt is associated with blue, manganese with violet, magnesium with green, et cetera.

You see where I’m going with this?

Drafters use the chemical compounds in their bodies to create luxin. The same compounds that exist in all of us. Being lightsick, like being hungover, stems from a person’s body chemistry being out of balance (which is why hydration and electrolytes are so helpful in recovering from too much… drafting).

So my question for you, faithful Chromeriacs, is this: is The Lightbringer Series epic fantasy… Or science fiction?

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

 

Real Life Fantasy: Mirror Spiders

Purple mirror spider on beech leaf; Peter Woodard
Peter Woodard

These stunning spiders may be as close to real-life drafters as we will see in this universe. They have the unique ability to make brilliant reflective plates on their abdomen, using guanine. Even cooler is their ability to make the plates expand and contract at will!

mirror spider, Australia
Nicky Bay

Perhaps it’s appropriate that British entomologist William J Rainbow was the first person to catalogue and describe these surreal, tiny spiders.

We took one look at these clever critters and immediately thought of Andross Guile… Even though they’re kind of the opposite of Andross, in that they’re beautiful and harmless.

Mirror spiders, or Thwaitesia argentiopunctata, live in Australia, and can be found in every state in the country. Ahh, Australia: land of frilled-neck lizards, quokka, and platypus. I mean, where else would they live?

Oh, wait, they’re also in Singapore? UGH, you southern hemisphere folk get all of the fun creatures, don’t you? I suppose it’s a fair trade for having upside-down seasons and your toilets flush backwards.

(I do enjoy a good game of two truths and a lie.)

Most of the images we found were taken by Singapore-based photographer Nicky Bay. For more beautiful images of mirror spiders and other fascinating insects around the world, you can also check out Nicky’s website (link above).

Australia, mirror spider
Robert Whyte

Thank you to our sources, for sharing information about our beautiful world: Australian Geographic, This Is Colossal, & Strange Animals.

mirror spider, Australia
Robert Whyte