“Then the luxin hardened in its shape, which was as much like a condor’s wings as Gavin had been able to manage. The wings caught the air, and Karris and Gavin shot into the sky.
The first time Gavin had attempted it, he’d tried to hold one wing in each hand. He’d learned then why birds have hollow bones and weigh almost nothing. The lift had nearly torn his arms off. He’d gone home wet, bruised, and angry, with most of the muscles in his arms and chest torn. By making the condor all one piece instead, he’d taken away the need for muscle at all. The whole thing flew on the strength and flexibility of the luxin, speed, and wind.
Of course, it didn’t really fly. It glided. He’d tried to use the reeds, but it hadn’t worked so far. For the time being, the condor had a limited range.
Karris wasn’t complaining. She was wide-eyed. “Gavin! Orholam, Gavin, we’re flying!” She laughed, carefree.”
The linked article from UPI explains work done by researchers at U Mass Medical School in which they have successfully given mice near-infrared vision. The research team injected nanoparticles made from rare-earth metals behind the retinas of mice. Those mice had been trained to swim toward visibly-lit triangles; once they received the nanoparticle injections, they started swimming toward triangles lit by only near-infrared light.
In case you’re wondering–I certainly was–our eyes see light wavelengths of 400-700 nanometers. Near-infrared is defined as light wavelengths between 750 nanometers and 1.4 micrometers.
Here’s a video shared in the UPI article that features lead researcher on the project, Dr. Gang Han, talking about the technology he and his team developed.
Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll see you next time.
Welcome back to Real Life Fantasy! Today we’re sharing a simple one–nature refracting full-spectrum light in the air.
Many of you will recognize this as a fancy way of saying “RAINBOWS,” but it’s a little more than that.
As such, we have fog machine vapor wafting through a RGB laser:
And, of course, circumhorizon arcs, aka “fire rainbows.”
Which begs the question, “why?” This is neither made with fire, nor is it an elliptical “rainbow.” Language is weird. But never mind that, here’s more vapor magic:
I snagged this word bite from Christopher Schmitt on flickr: “To see this rainbow, the ‘clouds must be at least 20,000ft high and the ice crystals within them align horizontally instead of their usual vertical position. The sun also needs to be at least 58 degrees above the horizon. Then, the magic can begin.'”
Nature is the best, y’all! Especially when it’s not, you know, on fire. All our best to the firefighters along the west coast who are still working tirelessly to contain the wildfires in California, Oregon, and Washington.
That sums up what I have to say about these astonishing and beautiful trees. There are several different types of trees that produce a blood-red resin or sap, known colloquially as dragon’s blood–but it’ll look to Weeks fans like red luxin from the Atasifusta.
For those of you needing a refresher on the mythical tree from the Seven Satrapies, here’s a snippet from The Black Prism:
“…Each pillar was a full five paces thick— atasifusta, the widest trees in the world— and none narrowed perceptibly before reaching the ceiling. The wood was said to have been the gift of an Atashian king, five hundred years before. Even then it had been precious. Now they were extinct, the last grove cut down during the Prisms’ War.
“…What made the atasifusta unique was that its sap had properties like concentrated red luxin. The trees took a hundred years to reach full size— these giants had been several hundreds of years old when they’d been cut. But after they reached maturity, holes could be drilled in the trunk, and if the tree was large enough, the sap would drain slowly enough to feed flames. These eight giants each bore a hundred twenty-seven holes, the number apparently significant once, but that significance lost. On first look, it appeared that the trees were aflame, but the flame was constant and never consumed the wood, which was ghostly ivory white aside from the blackened soot smudges above each flame hole. Gavin knew that the flames couldn’t be truly eternal, but after allegedly burning day and night for five hundred years, these atasifustas’ flames gave little indication of going out anytime soon. Perhaps the flames nearer the top were a little duller than those lower as the sap settled in the wood, but Gavin wouldn’t have bet on it.
“When the wood wasn’t mature, it made incredible firewood. A bundle that a man could carry in his arms would warm a small hut all winter. No wonder it was extinct.”
So we have, in summary, three primary species of dragon’s blood/Atasifusta trees that exist today.
The Dracaena cinnabari tree, native to Socotra (an archipelago between Yemen and Somalia):
This variety, native to Socotra, has a fascinating past, and an uncertain future. Just like Brent’s Atasifusta, these stunning trees are being threatened by human intervention. National Geographic (objectively the best periodical ever) has published a compelling article about the island, and the trees.
And finally we have the Croton lechleri, or sangre de drago, found primarily in Ecuador and Peru:
. . .
It’s worth noting that sap from these trees has been used IRL for a long time as traditional medicine, as incense, and as a pigment; it is also sold by contemporary online retailers as ‘natural medicine.’ I found several images of trees that have endured scarring from humans collecting the resin.
It’s tough to say (at least for me) whether this is bad for the trees and/or harmful to their ecosystems at large. I mean, it looks pretty bad, right? But I also wrote this post while eating pancakes and maple syrup. So there’s that. We’d love to hear from anyone who knows more about these gorgeous plants!
Thanks for reading, everyone. Stay home and stay safe.
Greetings from the hermitage! In this edition of Real Life Fantasy, we’re taking a closer look at two contemporary machines that have some surprisingly Satrapied roots.
First we’re going to talk about the hardest working multitasker in your kitchen/dorm room, the microwave oven.
For most of us, microwaves are a fast, easy way to transform frozen comestibles into piping hot delectables. You put the dish in, push a couple buttons, wait for the pleasant *ding,* and viola! Dinner is served. Well, friends, we’re about to reveal the secret behind these magic boxes… It’s paryl luxin.
Yep, scientists found a way to harness the energy from chunks of paryl luxin to safely and effectively heat food. They acquire the luxin shards from archaeologists, who sell the fragments to microwave manufacturers in order to fund other less lucrative but ultimately more profound digs in the Mediterranean.
Second, we’re going to take a closer look at x-ray radiography, aka the x-ray machines used in medical offices and hospitals around the globe. The technology is remarkably similar to that of the microwave oven; a shard of chi luxin is activated electronically, the energy is projected through the object to be imaged, and the machine captures the chi ‘shadow’ onto an x-ray sensitive plate.
I always wondered why my radiologist called herself The Keeper. I guess that explains it!
For those of you who can still draft and/or see in the chi spectrum, you’ll note in the image below the tiny shard of chi luxin hovering ominously between the anode and the cathode in the tube. Shives me the givers, y’all.
That’s all for this time; we’ll be back next week for Fan Art Tuesday. Everyone stay healthy and safe out there–stay home as much as possible, and take care of yourselves and your loved ones.
In this edition of Real Life Fantasy, we’re going to consider invisible ink. Some of you may already know that there are several ways to make invisible ink–using citric acid, vinegar, table salt, or baking soda… But of course we’re not talking about anything so simple nor ordinary. We’re talking ultraviolet (or superviolet) ink.
(SPOILERS below for Blood Mirror)
“Perfect timing,” Anjali Gates said. “I’m just finishing up.” She blew on the warm wax sealing a scroll and then slid it into a leather scroll case. She also had a sheathed table knife on the table.
Anjali handed Teia the scroll case. “That’s the decoy. Filled with happy nothings about how well we were received and so forth. The real report is written in superviolet and wrapped around the blade of this knife. If you’re taken, make sure you rattle that blade around inside its sheath well to break up the superviolet script, understood?”
“Understood. Can I run with it?”
“Absolutely. This knife’s seen duty all over the world. You won’t destroy my note by accident.”
We munds need a little help when it comes to reading messages using superviolet ink. Luckily we live in an age of boundless technology.
As it turns out, it’s very difficult to find published scientific articles on the interwebs that discuss the chemistry of UV ink. Most websites that talk about UV ink are discussing it in terms of using it in inkjet printers. And selling it.
But I did find a couple of good articles that at least cover the topic a little bit:
Please note that the image came from a tattoo-focused website that doesn’t endorse using UV ink in a tattoo. According to the second link, dermatologists have noticed more adverse rashes and negative skin reactions to UV ink in their patients. (On that note, we follow the ‘your body, your rules’ maxim. We’re not encouraging anyone to go out and do this.)
Next week is the Q&R on FB Live on St Patty’s Day! (We’ll send out reminders. Join us!)
Several readers have pointed out recently that Orholam’s Wink–or Neptune’s Wink, as it’s sometimes called–is a real thing. It is a meteorological optical phenomenon that (long story short) happens when sunlight is refracted by our atmosphere at a particular angle. You can see this phenomenon live and in-person… If you’re in the right place. At the right time.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the right place is sea level, and the right time is sunset, or sunrise.
The timing for sunrise is a bit tricky, since you’d need to be staring at the horizon at sea level on a cloudless morning just before the sun begins to peek out over the horizon.
I don’t know about you, but I need more sleep than that. Also I live near a west-facing coast, so watching for the wink at sunrise is…impractical.
The article is worth a read; it’s an explanation of the green flash, but it’s also a story from astrophotographer Pete Lawrence. In it he explains, “The atmosphere acts like a prism, refracting different wavelengths by varying amounts.”
A prism, hmmmmm? You think Pete is a Lightbringer fan?
A lovely little town in Norway, nestled into a bucolic valley, is home to an array of giant mirrors that bring sunlight to its people for nearly half the calendar year. Without the array, Rjukan receives no natural sunlight from September to March!
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:
Next up are Kayser-Fleischer rings:
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!