Sunday, January 18, 2009

Southern Pacific Rattlesnake x-ray

Full Snake X-ray

While working on the rattlesnake fang project I mentioned to a friend about the snake heads in the freezer. He offered me several more! It turns out that if you own an expensive home in the hills outside of Santa Barbara in California you often keep rat traps to help keep the rats out of your house. This is a southern pacific rattlesnake that wandered into a rat trap. Of course I said I would love to have it and the next morning the dead snake arrived in the mail. I drove over to the university and x-rayed it in the high resolution machine. Hard to see in this image but there are a number of broken vertebrae several inches from the head. This snake is about 20 inches in length.

Freak Snowflake

Freak Snowflake

For many years I have photographer perfect snowflakes. I do not live in the best location to photograph snowflakes, since I live near Lake Ontario in New York. Our most common (98% of the time) show is lake effect. The lake effect snow is a jumble of little fast forming crystals and is as far from photogenic as snow crystals can get. Many snow crystals are not perfectly six sided, but have weird angles. I call these freak flakes, and I will often photograph them when I see them. No mater how weird a snow crystal looks, it still tries to maintains a electrostatic symmetry. In this case the little captured snow crystal on the left carried enough electric charge to balance out the weird arm on the right. In the world of snow a snow crystal is a perfect single crystal of water while a snowflake is made up of a group of snow crystals. This image is technically a snowflake – can you find all the individual crystals?

Rattle Snake Teeth

I was asked by a medical textbook author to take a few pictures of hollow rattlesnake fangs that were supposedly the inspiration for modern medical syringes. Easy to get fresh rattlesnake heads, just call up the biggest supplier of rattlesnake meat. Located in Georgia, the company shipped me several fresh snake heads for a few dollars. The largest was the size of a 200watt light bulb. Quite a large snake to find in the wild. Before I extracted the teeth, I stopped by one of the research radiography laboratories at one of the local universities where I often use their high resolution x-ray machine. I was surprised to learn that rattlesnake teeth are like sharks. The snakes are constantly looking and regrowing new fangs. It turns out that a rattlesnake will go through a set of fangs on average every meal and a half. In this side view of the head you can clearly see several sets of spare fangs in the upper jab. This is one of the fun things about being a science photographer, I am always learning new things.

Thin Film Soap colors

Thin Film Soap colors

Many time a research paper will be published that will show a unique scientific experiment. I was reading a technical paper on fluid flow where the research was done with one color light to measure the thickness of the soap film for flow analysis. I modified the experimental setup to use white light, thus showing different thickness of a soap film as a different color. This image is a still from a video series showing fluid flow. The soap flows out of a reservoir between vertical wires that are pulled apart so that the resulting soap film shows optical interference. These images have appeared in numerous books, but the movie was used by the cartoon television show “South Park” to represent hallucinations by the central characters. My physics students thought is was just grand. I have used this thin soap apparatus to show golf ball lift and drag, as well as eddy

Infrared photo of girl with a bubble

Science Photography often takes place outside the light that is visible to the human eye. In this image the light is far infrared. Special cameras lenses are used involving bizarre materials like pure Germanium. The cameras resolution is regulated by the United States Military, but in recent years the standards have been relaxed and now 640x480 are fairly common. The camera only sees heat in a black and white picture. Since the human eye does not see this part of the optical spectrum any color can be assigned to any temperature. In this image blue is assigned to the cooler temperatures, while red is assigned to the hottest areas. Here a young girl blows a bubble with bubblegum. The air inside the bubble as well as the bubble itself cools off quite quickly.