Under the Cloud

Five amazing facts about the fluffy, immense formations above our heads. /


And higher, higher yet the vapors roll:
Triumph is the noblest impulse of the soul!
Then like a lamb whose silvery robes are shed,
The fleecy piles dissolved in dew drops spread;
Or gently waft to the realms of rest,
Find a sweet welcome in the Father’s breast.

— Johannes Wolfgang von Goethe

Gauzy, wispy, and ethereal, clouds hang in the heavens, slowly moving across the sky, changing shape and form. Billowy, fluffy, full and fat with rain, snow, hail, or lightening, clouds also charge through the atmosphere changing from an innocent white to dark gray and hosting violent weather within minutes. They inspire art and science like no other part of creation, and for many Christians, they inspire prayerfulness and anticipation.

Composed of visible liquid droplets or frozen crystals of water and chemicals as small as one millionth of a millimeter, clouds are made of such small particles spread out for miles that they don’t have the velocity to fall down. They float.

Yet their beauty is so commonplace, perhaps sometimes people don’t even notice them unless they get in the way of the sun. Cloudy skies are a metaphor for looming bad news or a state of depression. And yet there is good news in the clouds. As Christ ascended into heaven, 40 days after his resurrection, he was taken up into a cloud (Acts 1:9–11), and on the clouds he will return to gather his saints.

Here are five awesome things you may not have known about clouds:

1. Luke Howard loved clouds so much he named them. At the turn of the 1800s, Howard, a pharmacist and Quaker turned Plymouth Brethren, proposed an international system for naming clouds modeled after Carl Linnaeus’s taxonomy. Using Latin, Howard named the three principal ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 46 / April 14, 2016
  1. Editor's Note from April 14, 2016

    Issue 46: Gorgeous feathers, Cairo’s cave churches, ant trails, and clouds. /

  2. Simply Beautiful Feathers

    A display of birds’ useful adornments. /

  3. From Garbage to Glory

    The cave churches of Cairo offer sanctuary in the midst of squalor. /

  4. Not All Who Wander Are Lost

    How ants have solved the Traveling Salesman Problem. /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Issue 46: Links to amazing stuff.

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