Cool sciency stuff

Or in the first instance, hot. The director of aerial imagery for DJI, a company that builds drones, joined up with a photographer who had the right permits and contacts to get extremely close to Holuhraun’s eruption in Iceland. The resulting footage is breathtaking.

(Note: the title sequence is incorrect; the volcano is in fact Holuhraun, which is in the Bárðarbunga system.)

From a write-up in WIRED:

During a second flight, he attempted to get even closer to the eruption, but it was out of range. When the drone would go out of range, its failsafe would trigger, bringing it back to the launch point. Cheng needed to be closer to get the shot he wanted. According to Cheng, “One of the policemen came over to us and said, ‘We checked the rules, and vehicles can’t drive closer. However, you could theoretically walk closer. I have to inform you that we officially do not recommend this, because it’s dangerous.’”

Armed with gas masks and heavy boots, Cheng stashed his drone in a backpack and hiked in another kilometer. He was finally able to fly to the edge of the eruption and capture the shots he was after as the sun was going down.

Check out the write-up; the story of how this footage was procured and what happened to the drone is interesting reading.


If, like me, you used to play with harvestmen as a kid (also known as daddy longlegs) and wondered how the heck they could ever catch any food when they were built on such a gangly and fragile model — well, the science is in, and the answer is: glue.

Here’s WIRED again (I know, but they were killing it this week):

But gluing up springtails [the preferred food of harvestmen] isn’t easy. Not only are their carapaces engineered to repel moisture (glue needs to set before it can stick), they are covered in tiny, detachable scales. However, the harvestman’s glue seems to do a good job of overcoming these counter-adaptations. The high-speed cameras showed that within 1 millisecond of contact, the glue had spread into the springtails’ complex microstructures. And as the springtail struggled against it, the glue just got stuck to more places. The glue even held against the springtails’ trademark leap.

The article embeds two videos demonstrating the effectiveness of this glue, which I watched with fascination. The sheer power in the springtails’ snaps is amazing, and yet that glue does indeed capture and set almost instantly. There must be a zillion commercial applications.


And speaking of spiders, reverseLoop’s Imgur page has photos of a spider engaging in some pretty advanced engineering. It seems the spider wanted to build a web in the arch of a garage roof, but couldn’t find a viable anchor point for the bottom of the web.

So it built one, using a suspended weight.

Spider weight

That is a small rock, wrapped in silk and then suspended from the base of the web. Here’s a close-up:

Spider weight closeup

I’d bet half the human race would not think of such a solution to this problem. Impressive.


Did you know that a fan named Christo Graham put together a new Muppet album? It is…

…wait for it…

Muppet Christ Superstar.

The vocals are a bit uneven, but “Heaven on Their Minds” is a standout, and when the chickens come clucking in at the end of “Superstar,” I laughed out loud. Seriously, the Muppets need to do this for real.

Muppet Christ Superstar

Okay, yes, that doesn’t qualify as sciency. But it was too good not to share.


And finally:

You’ve probably heard those urban legends about someone going in for an MRI and forgetting to take off their watch/earrings/ring/whatever, and having said bit of metal do all sorts of damaging stuff when the machine was fired up.

A bunch of scientists (read: juvenile delinquents in lab coats with a perfect academic excuse) got their hands on an MRI machine that was due to be decommissioned, and decided to make an educational video with it. So here for your viewing pleasure is the reality of the magnetic field in an MRI machine…plus a wrench, a stapler, an office chair…

About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
This entry was posted in biology, humor, science. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Cool sciency stuff

  1. Hick Crone says:

    Those were all just great.
    I wish I could visit Iceland.
    I really dislike spiders but can tolerate Daddy Longlegs and can now even respect them.
    I’ll admit to having some difficulty in singing along with the Muppet versions. It is a rare thing for my voice to be the best one in a sing along…

  2. Cathy White says:

    The colours of that eruption are stunning, esp against the dark backdrop. While not a great lover of spiders I do have a houseful of daddy longlegs, little family groups in each corner of most of the rooms in the house. I quite often have one drop in while I’m reading in bed. Superstar is my all time favourite musical. I saw the original production in London in 1970, and , to me, Evonne Ellerman (sp) had the most wonderful voice, I could listen to ” I don’t know how to love him” on a perpetual loop ! So I skipped Miss Piggy but enjoyed the opening overture, loved the sheep. Couldn’t get the MRI clip to play but I’ll try that again. Please keep up the quirky, nerdy posts. I don’t understand some of them, but they are fun and educational.

    • oregon expat says:

      I’ll keep them up, thank you. As for JC Superstar — it’s one of my favorites too. My parents had that album on a reel-to-reel tape (which should age me nicely) and I memorized all the lyrics when I was a kid. They’ve stuck with me ever since. Alas, my wife HATES that musical and complains vociferously whenever I start singing it. (And my voice is better than Miss Piggy’s.)

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