We humans are all too aware of the scary shit nature likes to pull on us. Whether it's destroying our towns with surging flood waters or setting our drug labs on fire with a well-placed lightning strike, we're constantly reminded that this is Mother Nature's world, and we're only squatting on it until she eventually comes home from vacation with a lingering tequila buzz and a shotgun. But perhaps that's unfair to nature: She's not all petty violence and viciousness ... sometimes she goes for more of a psychological approach to warfare. Here are a few natural phenomena that prove nature is probably just fucking with our heads ...
This looks like a hot vacation spot in Tron World. It looks like a jellyfish rave. It looks like somebody ate the future and threw it up on a beach. This is actually a bioluminescent bloom, and it's the result of a mass of naturally glowing plankton washing up all at once on a single tide. There is zero trickery going on here. If you were standing there in person, this is exactly what it would look like. The motion of the ocean agitates the bioluminescent plankton as it brings them to shore, causing the waves to flare to sudden, brilliant life.
That, or some crab chewed open a glow stick.
The best part is the effect is not harmful or forbidden to humans at all. If you're at a beach when this happens, just wade on in there and start playing with Mother Nature's version of Microsoft Surface, like so:
It's like a scene out of an arctic-themed Disney movie: This would be the set piece when Princess Nanoo sings about the "frozen beauty of the north," right before the sinister Duke of Blubber steals her away.
And it is absolutely real: These are Frost Flowers, and they're formed when tiny imperfections in surface ice kickstart a chain reaction of bizarre growth. Hollow tubes of ice form vertically from the imperfections, pulling moisture and debris into the structure. More ice grows over those imperfections, bringing in more moisture and debris, and so on and so forth until you have an entire floating field of icy romance.
That's actually an ice fumarole. A normal fumarole is a vent that protrudes from the ground, allowing steam from volcanoes to escape out into the open. Of course, arctic volcanoes have fumaroles, too, but it's so cold that steam particles freeze upon contact with the outside air, building up and up until you eventually get massive, 60-foot-high "ice chimneys" inexplicably shooting hot air out into the arctic wasteland. It makes sense now that you know the explanation, but if you were an arctic explorer stumbling upon one of those things for the first time, you just know you'd assume "giant Eskimos cooking breakfast."
Dale P. Cruikshank via NASA
Quiet, can you hear it? It's as if a thousand voices suddenly cried out at once! And they cried out "FAAAKE PIXLZZZ!!!"
That's either clearly Photoshopped, or we've finally discovered the gateway to Oz. The interior of the rainbow is daytime, the exterior is night. You expect us to believe this fantasy bullshit? Well, you should probably start: While it may look like the pseudo-surrealist pap you'd find hanging in some naturopath dentist's office, this is a real photo of a real phenomenon. There are such things as rainbows in the middle of the night. If it looks like the sun's coming up in the middle of that rainbow, it's not -- that's just the long exposure augmenting background light.
But the effect isn't just long-exposure trickery. If the conditions are just right, you can see Moonbows with the naked eye, if you're paying attention to the sky opposite the moon. For once, the explanation is simple: Moonbows work exactly like rainbows and appear whenever bright moonlight refracts just so off of moisture in the air.
Photo courtesy Calvin Bradshaw (calvinbradshaw.com)
And also whenever a fairy reaches second base.
And they happen fairly often, it's just that most are duller rainbows, or less sharp eyes only pick up on a faint white shimmering arc, while some lucky bastards can squint and see a rainbow in the dark. So it turns out Dio wasn't a poet, after all: Dude just had some keen peepers.
Is Old Man Winter whittling a shiv? Is Frosty the Snowman rolling up the bodies of all the children that didn't believe in him in giant ice-rugs for later disposal?
Nope. Those are "Snow Rollers," and the name is pretty self-explanatory. For a snow roller to form, the ground must be covered by a layer of ice that snow will not stick to, the layer of ice must be covered by wet, loose snow with a temperature near the melting point of ice, the wind must be strong enough to move the rollers, but not strong enough to blow them apart and, finally, the ground must have a slope, to start the rolling.
It's how God ices off his whiskey.
Well, either that, or you just feed a Frost Giant a bunch of fiber ...
Associated Press via Raymond Lam
Behold, the majestic firebow!
High altitude cirrus clouds sometimes contain a large number of hexagonal ice crystals, and if these are struck by sunlight at just the right angle, with the sun elevated at least 58 degrees, the sky suddenly looks like somebody waved a giant magnet in front of an old-school computer monitor.
Now think about describing that moment to anybody who wasn't right there with you: You're either getting tossed in the loony bin or hit up for some of those excellent drugs you're apparently on.
What looks like the aquatic version of the Nothing from The NeverEnding Story up there is actually ... well, no, turns out that analogy is pretty accurate. The Brinicle is an icy tentacle of doom that instantly freezes any sea creatures unlucky enough to be caught in that ominous river of frozen death up there. And you really have to watch it in time-lapse action to see how disturbing it is. The Brinicle looks like a magic spell cast by some sort of evil sea wizard:
It happens when newly formed sea ice creates very salty brine that is denser than the sea water. When that brine inevitably sinks to the bottom, the water surrounding it freezes over, leaving an "icy sheath" in its wake. As soon as the frozen brine hits the bottom, the surrounding sea floor is enveloped in a catacomb of ice, killing any life caught in its path.
Which might be why we haven't heard from Aquaman for a while.
That's right: The Brinicle is the literal icy finger of death.
For more ways nature will always be one up on us, check out 6 Ways Nature Cleans Up Our Messes Better Than We Do and 5 Acts of Nature That Rearranged the Face of the Planet.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 5 Monster-Sized Versions of Bugs That Will Haunt Your Dreams.