We take iron for granted these days.
Before human cultures mastered the art and science of metallurgy, the ability to purify and alloy Earth’s various metals, especially iron, into useful stuff like swords, spoons, and steel, pure iron was rare stuff. Despite being common in the crust, Earth’s iron isn’t sitting there in huge nuggets like California gold. It is trapped in ores and require extensive science magic to extract.
Yet iron artifacts have been found that date back thousands of years before the beginning of the Iron Age. So where’d that metal come from?
Iron-rich meteorites have been falling to Earth since Earth was a thing. If early humans traced the streak in the night sky to its landing spot, they could collect the metal and carve it directly into tools or artifacts, given a little bit of inspiration and free time, which I hear there was a lot of before the internet.
I’ve collected a few meteorite-sourced goodies above. Not all date from pre-Iron Age, but they represent what could have been done. From top:
- Perhaps the most magical artifact on Earth, a meteorite-tipped harpoon made from narwhal tusk!!!
- The "Iron Man" sculpture, an 11th-century carving of a Buddhist deity from a single pice of space metal
- A dagger made from meteorite-source iron steel
- These are oldest iron artifacts ever found to date! These 5,000-year-old Egyptian beads were carved from meteoric iron and found in Gerzeh.
The word “iron” actually comes from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning “holy metal”, and many of these space-rock artifacts are ceremonial or meant for the era’s royalty or refer to deities. Before we knew that meteorites were just space debris, it’s no surprise that these rocks were sourced to a different sort of heaven.
Tripedal to the Metal
That’s some loco motion, huh? Found this neat little GIF showing how an ant’s legs move at a full gallop. While calmly strolling though the picnic grounds, ants have five of their six legs at a time in contact with the ground. But when it’s time to put the (tiny) pedal to the metal, they change their gait to this alternating tripod motion.
This pattern isn’t controlled by the insect’s brain, but rather by bundles of neurons in the leg called central pattern generators. While moving at such a clip, it just so happens that three legs is the minimum number it needs on the ground at a time to balance its rigid exoskeleton without toppling over.
Is that part of the reason that insects have six legs and not another number like four or eight? Or did the gait evolve to match the hardware? My guess is the latter, but I am not sure. What say you, insect folks?
(GIF via NC State University)
Request (sorta) by karamundy: something picturing non-dinosaurs that are often wrongly considered dinosaurs.
There’s probably other stuff I could’ve put in, but that’s basically everything I could think of.
Fun fact: this chart also doubles as a chart depicting what I can and cannot draw well.
I’m just going to put this on a t-shirt so I don’t have to explain it anymore haha.
Useful chart is useful.
Disappointed about the dragons, though.
I have a feeling that silk scarves printed with NASA satellite and Hubble images are a thing that some of you might need, in a “shut up and take my money” way.
Check ‘em out at Slow Factory.
Rachel Sussman’s photographs of the oldest living things in the world – a masterpiece at the intersection of art, science, and philosophy.
With an artist’s gift for “aesthetic force” and a scientist’s rigorous respect for truth, Sussman straddles a multitude of worlds as she travels across space and time to unearth Earth’s greatest stories of resilience, stories of tragedy and triumph, past and future, but above all stories that humble our human lives, which seem like the blink of a cosmic eye against the timescales of these ancient organisms — organisms that have unflinchingly witnessed all of our own tragedies and triumphs, our wars and our revolutions, our holocausts and our renaissances, and have remained anchored to existence more firmly than we can ever hope to be.
Above all, however, the project raises questions that aren’t so much scientific or artistic as profoundly human: What is the meaning of human life if it comes and goes before a patch of moss has reached the end of infancy? How do our petty daily stresses measure up against a struggle for survival stretching back millennia? Who would we be if we relinquished our arrogant conviction that we are Earth’s biological crown jewel?
See more here.
I guarantee you that Rachel Sussman’s ten-year quest to chronicle the oldest living things on Earth will be the best thing you read about today. It will change the way you look at your life, and the life around you. It will change your perspective regarding your time on Earth, that everything, from fleeting mayflies to ancient mosses struggles for existence daily, and no matter how many sunrises we see, we should relish in each of them for their impermanence.