Science behind the photo #47

Salticidae Spider Depth perception takes on a whole new meaning when you have eight eyes. The spider in the picture belongs to the Salticidae family, which contains over 5000 described species. The Salticidae’s ability to jump is not unique among spiders, but they are set apart from other families by their capability to make precise, […]

Science Behind the Photo #46

Andean Flamingos Pink bodied and yellow legged, these Andean Flamingos sift through shallow silt at sunset in the Atacama desert. Flamingos are filter-feeders, mainly eating microscopic algae that they filter from the water with their uniquely structured upside-down beak. Unlike most other birds, the flamingo has a narrower top beak than bottom, and its top […]

Science Behind the Photo #45

Taken from Issue 22. Although seemingly beautiful and serene, this fiery image shows the hundreds of millions of stars at the turbulent heart of the Milky Way, all cocooned in cosmic gas and dust. The life of such a star is visible in its entirety, from the dusty regions of star birth, populations of young […]

Science Behind the Photo #44

Arizona Petrified Forest The badlands of Arizona, once thriving with lush forests of the Late Triassic, are now littered with the reminder of greener times. Beautifully preserved wood logs have withstood the test of time and given scientists a glimpse into the complexities of a palaeo ecosystem. 225 million years ago the scene was very […]

Science Behind the Photo #43

Taken from Issue 21. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this photo was an intricate model of a train set – but you would be mistaken. It is, in fact, a photograph of a life-sized DART train in Dublin, combined with some post-production magic to fool us into thinking it is tiny. This effect, known […]

Science Behind the Photo #42

The Giant’s Causeway: World Heritage site, celebrity of ‘Visit Ireland’ publicity campaigns, subject of myth and legend Its beautiful, sculpted steps are iconic, but it may shock people to realise the lavas which formed this stunning landscape are only 60 million years old, produced in what’s known as the Paleogene period. To give an idea […]

Science Behind the Photo #41

Rainbow Crystals X-ray crystallography is one way of finding out what a molecule consists of. It can show which atoms are present in a substance and how they are connected to one another. This involves crystallising the compound, firing X-rays at the crystal and analysing the diffraction pattern that results. However, not all compounds naturally […]

Science Behind the Photo #40

The Colour of Leaves Across the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, deciduous trees are pushing out bright green new leaves that unfurl from buds like verdant moths thrust slowly from winter cocoons. The green colour of these new leaves is, of course, due to the pigmentation of chlorophyll. In green plants, chlorophyll molecules absorb […]

Science Behind the Photo #39

With thanks to Adair Farrar The San Juan River Goosenecks State Park in Utah, USA, overlooks a deep meander of the San Juan River, a 600-km-long tributary of the Colorado River. One of the best examples of entrenched river meanders in the world, the river flows through 8 kms of canyon while progressing westwards only […]

Science Behind the Photo #38

Taken from Issue 20. For nearly as long as we have been creating objects of value, we have been developing ways to keep them safe. Being a relatively untrusting species has meant that we have invested a significant amount of time developing security measures to keep our belongings out of the hands of other people. […]

Science Behind the Photo #37

Sure-footed Some lizards can walk on water, others can walk up walls. It’s hard to tell from the photo whether this gecko is walking on the floor, up a vertical surface, or upside down across the ceiling. And from its point of view, it probably doesn’t make much difference. Geckos’ amazing adhesive feet work by […]

Science Behind the Photo #36

In issue 19 of I, Science, “Unexplored Worlds”, we feature the work of x-ray artist Hugh Turvey. The full interview with Hugh is published here. PL: What drew you to pursue x-ray as a medium for your artwork? HT: I trained as a photographer and I love film and in 1996 I started experimenting with […]

Science Behind the Photo #35

Shuttle landings Perhaps unsurprisingly, the space shuttle takes off like a rocket. The orbiter has rocket  boosters in addition to its main engines, which are used for launch before they detach and drop back down to Earth – these falling boosters are strategically aimed towards the ocean, so they land relatively unharmed and can be […]

Science Behind the Photo #34

Moon Bouncing Taken in 2008, this pair of telecommunications masts in downtown Atlanta, USA carry a mix of phone, TV and radio relay dishes. Telecommunication towers have been around since the early 1900s. It was Nikola Tesla, in the 1890s, who first proposed that radio waves might be used for the communication of information. The […]

Science Behind the Photo #33

This detailed photograph of our Moon was taken at the University of London Observatory (ULO), on the amazingly beautiful and intricate Fry telescope. Made by famous telescope manufacturer Thomas Cook in 1862, it was moved to ULO in 1930. It is used often to instruct astronomy students and is mainly used to observe planets, solar […]

Science Behind the Photo #32

Seven-Spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) The seven-spot ladybird is one of Britain’s most common beetles, easily recognisable by its distinctive markings. As its name would suggest, this ladybird has seven black spots – three on each side of the red elytra (the hardened forewing that protects the hindwings used for flying) and one split across the […]

Science Behind the Photo #31

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) This flower is native to Europe and North America. The origin of the word dandelion is a corruption of the French dent de Lion meaning lion’s tooth, though it also goes by the more poetic name of Florin d’Or – the golden florian. Its ethereal seeding stage; a corona of misty-star like […]

Science Behind the Photo #30

Peak District, UK, April 2009 – This is what your stylish kitchen worktop looks like in raw form. Granite is among the hardest of the igneous rocks – those created when molten magma cools and solidifies.  It usually forms at subduction zones where one of the earth’s tectonic plates slips under another. Rock melted by friction […]

Science behind the photo #29

The Pantanal, Brazil, August 2005 – Caimans (Caiman crocodilus) are small members of the alligator family found all over Central and Southern America. This one was lounging in shallow water in Brazil’s Pantanal, the largest wetland area on the planet. Caimans are usually four to eight foot (1.5-2.5m) long. They mainly eat fish and molluscs, […]

Science Behind the Photo #28

This is odd behaviour for a southern tamandua anteater (tamandua tetradactyla).  They’re usually found in trees, not wandering open grassland.  In fact, tamanduas are so badly adapted for living on the ground, they have to walk on the outside of their feet to stop their claws piercing their palms. What’s more, being nocturnal, they’re usually […]

Science Behind the Photo #27

Eight million cows roam Brazil’s Pantanal – the world’s largest wetland – and with all that beef chomping through the area’s vegetation, environmentalists are nervous that native mammals could be pushed out.  However, a recent dung study shows their fears may be unfounded. The Pantanal has been home to cattle ranchers since the mid-18th century.  […]