Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Things That Glow Briefly in the Dark

I was curious today if there were any statistics on the cancellation of municipal July Fourth fireworks displays in this aching year, but I was only able to find anecdotal evidence of the trend after a total of about five minutes at Google News, so I decided the question wasn't worth any more time. The first thing I put into the search was "fireworks" (instead of "fireworks canceled" or "fireworks cancellation"), so naturally all the fireworks accident stories from the holiday weekend popped up, including this ghastly one: "Long Island man blows off left arm while trying to light fuse on fireworks." It seems he was fooling around with an unforgiving mortar. As mortars tend to be.

Northwest suburban Wheeling, Illinois, canceled its Fourth of July fireworks this year. We went there last year and during the mid-2000s for good shows in a spacious park that has a nearby neighborhood in which to park your car. Last year's show was probably already in the Wheeling budget before the Panic of 2008, but when the time came to consider the expense for 2010, shooting off 'works lost out.

West suburban Westmont, Illinois, on the other hand, went ahead with its show at Ty Warner Park, named for the Beanie Baby mogul who donated $3 million for its creation in the late '90s. Ty Inc. headquarters is in Westmont, so maybe he ponied up to help pay for the display this year. In any case, the show was on in our former town, so we went.

We had our Coolpix S200 and for some reason Lilly was possessed to take pictures during the display. Maybe because, astonishingly, the camera has a setting for fireworks. Most of the images look like fuzzy pics of fireworks. But some of them are light traces that cry out for the addition of bogus captions. I'm just the man for that job.

Deep in the Tonga Trench lives a eerily bioluminous Narcomedusa Jellyfish -- only its hair-like protrusions glow against a pitch-dark body -- believed to be a new genus and species discovered and photographed by Japanese scientists in 2002 by remote submersible but not seen since. Jellies happen to be among the least understood groups of animals on Earth.

Captured at the Very Large Tevatron Collider near Stuttgart, Germany (Größtenpartikelgeschlammer), is this image of two Higgs bosons, types W and Z, colliding in a recent test. A supercomputer turned the invisible tracks of the particles into a color-coded graphic representation for further study.

Another computer enhanced image, this one is of X-ray emissions from Eta Carinae, a Peculiar star, taken by NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Other stars are in the background.

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