Wonder on the Web

Issue 37: Links to amazing stuff.

What Caused Giant’s Causeway?

People have puzzled over this massive honeycomb-shaped rock formation in Northern Ireland for a long while—Irish legend says it was the result of a giants’ feud. But the scientific reason is even more interesting. Watch this video demo of a model set up by physicists who used x-ray tomography (on some water and corn starch in a coffee cup) to show how these impressive columns might have formed. You can read more about how German scientists are building on this research to devise a new model here. And if you’re into hiking, you can visit a very similar natural wonder in California, called Devils Postpile.

You Can’t Spell Cartography Without Art

This stunning map (pdf) of Oregon’s Willamette River is history, geology, and art, all in one. Using data collected by millions of laser points shot from low-flying aircraft, cartographer Dan Coe has created a composite image of the river’s ever-changing course. The end product looks familiar, a bit like an illustration of the circulatory system. Or, come to think of it, a fractal (which you can read about in this cover story from our recent issue). (Via Colossal.)

Ant Algorithms

In the future, designers of self-assembling materials—anything from surgical stents to life rafts to rescue-operation robots—might start taking cues from an unlikely source: army ants. These Central and South American insects are known for building “living bridges,” joining their bodies together to cross obstacles on food-foraging expeditions. Yes, you may have seen the raft thing in Ant-Man. But what’s really incredible is that they also seem to behave according to an algorithm for maximum efficiency. Smithsonian reports:

As more ants join in, the bridges shift locations to span larger and larger gaps, shortening the path ants have to take when carrying food back to the nest. But because each brick in the bridge is also a lost forager, the ants reach a point where a slightly better shortcut just isn’t worth the cost, according to new analysis of this insect construction work.

Find ants intriguing? Be sure to check out The Behemoth’s article about zombie ants, too.

Turn Your Ears Upon “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”

Advent reminds us to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ, to “turn our eyes upon Jesus.” Music has a way of helping us do that. Take a few minutes to watch a truly soulful rendition of this hymn from cellist Kevin Olusola (known for his “cello-boxing” and performances with the a cappella group Pentatonix). Olusola’s remarkable talent is obvious in this video, but there’s more to it than technique—his playing is “joyful and triumphant,” too, for the best reason.

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Also in this Issue

Issue 37 / December 10, 2015
  1. Editor's Note from December 10, 2015

    Issue 37: Children question God, how you beat your DNA, and keeping Creation together. /

  2. Two Hundred Questions a Day

    Childlike faith keeps probing, sometimes impolitely. /

  3. Born to Be Wild?

    Maybe not. Just because something is written in our genetic code doesn’t mean our body will read it. /

  4. The Creator Is Closer

    I too often forget that God sustains all he has made. /

  5. Ode to an Encyclopedia

    “Questing Beast of blue and gold, you were my companion” /

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