Unseen beauty

At lunch today I saw a TED talk by Jonathan Drori on pollen. He mentioned that pollen has become extremely useful in forensics because we’re now assembling the pollen thumbprint of every part of the plant-inhabited world. One look at the pollen grains in your shirt reveals volumes about where you’ve been. But really, the thing about the talk is that these giant electron micrographs of pollen grains from various species are displayed behind the speaker throughout the talk and you can’t help but be amazed at how beautiful they are. And they’re floating around us all the time. That thing on the right is a pollen grain for Greater Stitchwort.

Tonight I came home and read about the new Solar Dynamics Observatory, a NASA satellite that specializes in looking at, as you might guess, the sun. But what pictures she sends us, this orbiting eyeball! That image on the left, that’s the sun (sporting a wicked cowlick of a prominence) as seen in far ultraviolet. And there’s lots more good stuff like this on the site. It’s the same sun we see every day, but we’re not equipped to take in the beauty.

Later still, I saw that the xkcd web comic had taken up the same theme. It’s a good thing to remember as a general principle: this beauty that you speak of, it’s everywhere. Sometimes you have to take it on faith. And there’s a good chance it’ll make you sneeze. But still! Crikey!