#3. Lightning Strikes From the Ground Up (Sometimes)
Look, lightning is already pretty badass at normal speed. But slow it way, way down and occasionally something weird appears:
Mother Nature likes getting hammered and shooting guns off into the air too.
Again the film is not reversed, just slowed down. What the shit? It's going the wrong goddamned direction. What, is this the ground taking revenge on the sky, because it finally got tired of its shit? Is Thor down there?
No, that's just Mother Nature demonstrating her uncanny ability to fucking erase you from this planet at a whim by showing off one of the pants-shitting-iest weapons in her arsenal: ground to cloud lightning. It turns out that bolts of Zeus's wrath can actually go either direction, and it's theorized that the bottom-up bolts you see are from previous lightning strikes building up a charge in the ground. So we guess lightning ... bounces?
Not that regular top-down strikes are any less terrifying:
Somewhere a little boy is getting super-powers ... or electrocuted, whatever.
Notice how it seems to send out little feelers, like tentacles made of pure electricity, before WHAM! Big-ass electro-shaft, right down the middle. We like to pretend that anything that happened to be in its way at the time did something to deserve such a sizzling fate (fish can be real assholes sometimes, you know?), because otherwise the entire phenomenon paints Mother Nature as, frankly, kind of a bitch.
What you're looking at are the first, invisible "leaders" of ionized air that form lightning, basically channels of conductive air that will then discharge in a pants-shitting way, all at once. Slow it down enough, and you can see the process happening -- the charge exploding up the path traced by the ionized leaders:
And if you'd like a reminder of what it's like to be at ground level when this shit goes down:
#2. Popcorn Looks Like Some Kind of Violent Alien Birth
Popcorn is special because it's one of only a few foods in your kitchen that you explode in order to eat it. But slow it down and it looks like some kind of alien larvae bursting out of a cocoon:
"They mostly pop at night ... mostly"
Did you see the little jet of steam shoot out the bottom? Sometimes you'll see the seed jump into the air before it pops, like here ...
This Gif is more captivating than the entirety of Prometheus.
... and that blast of steam is why (notice how the shell peels open from the bottom up, as the same force that propelled it upward blows the outer casing open). Yeah, popcorn is weird.
So weird, in fact, that NASA has a section on their website dedicated to popcorn ... we'll pause here for a second so you can re-read that if you need to ... where they explain that popcorn's trademark pop is caused by water inside the kernel. When the popcorn is heated, the water molecules inside the kernel start frantically moshing -- we might even be talking a wall of death type situation here. The molecules get hotter and hotter and sweatier and sweatier until the outer casing of the kernel just can't contain their pure moshy metalness anymore.
Burke/Triolo Productions/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
"Where's that Motorhead coming from?"
Meanwhile, the starch inside the kernel gets superheated into a gelatin. When the casing is finally breached, the remaining gas in the corn causes the insides to expand. The kernel proceeds to turn itself inside out and the starch immediately cools and hardens into a foam, like the tastiest Transformer ever.
#1. Slow Things Down Enough, and You Can See the Movement of Light Itself
Kim Steele/Photodisc/Getty Images
If you tasked us with trying to film something at such a slow speed that we're actually able to capture the movement of light, we'd say that's impossible by definition. Doesn't the light have to travel to the camera in order for us to see it? So how would you possibly film something at a frame rate higher than the movement of light? Wouldn't you, like, go back in time or something?
Well, MIT scientists, who apparently don't have the words "freaking impossible" in their vocabularies, have gone right ahead and shot a video of laser light traveling along its merry 670 million mile per hour way.
We'll consider this scientific proof that Coke > Pepsi.
To do this, they developed an imaging system called Femto-Photography, which involves throwing lasers, a Coke bottle (?) and some mirrors together, with an end result of being able to visualize the movement of photons at a trillion frames per second. That's a trillion as in 12 zeros, folks -- the standard rate for full-motion video is 24 to 30 fps.
Without getting too technical, their "video" is actually a series of still photos captured basically all at once, by 500 sensors each operating on a delay of one trillionth of a second. They each capture the pulse of photons at a different stage of the journey, then piece it together in a YouTube video for your viewing pleasure.
Seconds before they tragically tried to boost their subscriber list by doing it with a cat.
Besides being able to make light look like something that should be pewing out of the end of a Storm Trooper's barrel, Femto-Photography has some other, equally amazing, applications. Obviously it lets them study the movement of light particles like never before (which is helpful in designing, well, any future device that uses light). And for example, we're betting there are plenty of soldiers or police officers who've found themselves in a situation where the ability to see around corners would come in handy. Well, thanks to Femto-Photography, science has made that happen, thanks to this device's ability to track the movement of photons bouncing off the unseen object:
Thanks, science! Now, when can we expect that feature on our smartphones?
Related Reading: Enjoy this article? Then you'll love the exact opposite. There's a dam blowing up- what more could you ask for? Keep the hole we just blew in your mind open, with normal things that look trippy under a microscope. Add an electron microscope, and alcohol looks the way LSD feels. Double down on zoomed-in craziness and click this link. Chalk will give you freaking nightmares.