Sunday, November 11, 2012

101 Interesting Things, part fifty-one: Blood rain and fire rainbows!

Today we have a twofer, since these are both kinda short, and it's part fifty-one, which officially puts this project over the halfway mark (fifty behind, fifty ahead, and a double-dipper in the middle).  Hooray!  Today also marks the first time I've had occasion to use a "meteorology" tag.  Double-hooray!

Our theme today is weird weather, and we open with blood rain.  No, not the Slayer song that single-handedly stopped me from beating Guitar Hero 3 on Hard Mode.

It's not even a good song.  At least your reward for The
Number of the Beast was rocking your own face off.

In ancient times, people wrote of blood falling from the sky as a bad omen, and while the whole "omen" part was hokum, the red rain itself was real.  It wasn't blood, of course, but - well, look at this:


The stuff on the left is bottled rainwater from the Kerala event; on the right, same stuff but allowed to settle; and in the middle, the powder responsible:  mainly carbon and oxygen, with some other stuff mixed in for shits & gigs.  But wait... that's just the spectroscopic analysis.  Look at the stuff under a scanning electron microscope:


Now, those are not blood cells (that scale bar is 20 micrometers, and human blood cells are 6-8 micrometers, so those are way too small).  But still:  those little bits up there were probably filled with fluid (since they collapsed when they dried), and they had a lot of amino acids in 'em too (which are the building blocks of proteins).  Which sounds an awful lot like blood cells.

Dust, spores, algae, all kinds of explanations have been proposed - and the stuff comes in many different colors, sometimes lasting for only minutes and others for days, so there are probably various causes.  Still, there isn't yet universal agreement on what the causes are, even though we can predict it sometimes.

Our second weird weather thinger is less ominous, better understood, and cooler named:  the fire rainbow!


Hilariously, though, "they are neither rainbows, nor related in any way to fire."  (Thank you, Wikipedia, for spoiling my fun.)  What happens is that about a zillion ice crystals are floating about up in the sky, and when the Sun hits 'em just right, they act like a zillion tiny prisms.  These things look rad as Hell:

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