Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The color of things we love

Did you know that beetles and blue jays are not colored by pigments, like your hair is colored? It is the reflection of light from ordered surfaces that selectively reflects colored light. For blue jay feathers, it is the fine lines to the feathers that absorbs most light and reflects the lovely blue. Beetle exoskeleton has a hexagonal pattern, with pentagrams and heptagrams to help fit the curve of the shell. The light gets polarized just like going through your Ray-Bans, so you get the beautiful iridescent colors that make beetles one of god's favorite insects. Very cool that optics technologies are starting to study these complex biological structural designs for new ideas.

You know all those beautiful poinsettias that are so dense and bushy? Ever tried to keep growing one of those lush plants and it gets all leggy? Commercial poinsettias are infected by plant bacteria called phytoplasmas. It shortens the distance between branches by producing a specific protein that promotes dwarfism, branching, and general yellowing. Have you ever seen witches broom? There is a couple mile stretch in Death Valley festooned with witches broom, all curled and yellow. Unfortunately poinsettias are the only known commercially advantageous application (don't ask me why the leaves are not yellow), because it is very damaging to grapes, pears, apples, and so on. Another case of 'who knew?'

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