Tag Archives: nature

Yes, but can you do THIS?

Years ago—maybe ten or twelve years in fact—I read an amazing article in Scientific American about a dolphin which had learnt to do the dolphin equivalent of blowing smoke rings. It was able to make ring-shaped air bubbles in the water, which it would then play with. The article described such scenes as a researcher blowing smoke rings one side of the glass, and the dolphin reciprocating with its air rings. Creating a ring and then breaking a piece of it off to make a smaller ring. Creating a ring and then swimming through the middle of it. To justify its presence in Scientific American I think there was some discussion of the physics of how the bubbles were able to persist in the water.

Frustratingly, I lost the copy of Scientific American after taking it to work to show someone. But I was intrigued by the article and always wished I could see the dolphin in action.

Well, here it is. And I think you’ll agree that what it’s doing is pretty amazing and makes human-blown smoke rings look very crude in comparison–leaving aside the fact that no horrible carcinogenic smoke is involved either:

How many people do you know who can do that? Probably the number of humans who’ve learnt that skill is approximately the same as the number of dolphins who’ve published papers about fluid dynamics.

I found this video quite by chance: my copy of Opera 10.10 updated itself to 10.51, much less successfully than is usual for an Opera upgrade. So, after rather a long absence, I visited the Opera forums in search of anything which might help me sort out the problems. While I was there I visited a friend’s blog which I’d not seen for a while, and there was the video.

So, two sets of thanks are in order:

  • to Yulia, for posting the video, and
  • to Opera, for messing up their upgrade so I would visit their site and find the blog post.

Update: It seems that humans can blow these circular bubbles quite easily after all. The clip on this page about vortex rings from ABC television in Australia includes someone doing just that. It also explains some of the physics, and has shots of some more ring-blowing dolphins. Thanks to Andrew Mitchell for the link.

Another beautiful photo blog

Ninebark Imagery has been on my blogroll for quite a while now, and I thought it was time I brought it to your attention. It’s the photoblog of Debbie Campbell, a web designer in Colorado who also describes herself as an “amateur nature photographer”. Here’s one of her recent photos:

Poudre River. © ninebarkimagery.com

Poudre River. © ninebarkimagery.comUsed with permission

One thing I like about the site, apart from the pictures which I find very restful, is the simple page layout with one picture to a page against a nearly-black, unobtrustive foliage background and minimal text. This lets the photos speak for themselves, one at a time, as they should. The mood of the photos is mostly quiet and reflective, with a feelling that a lot of care has gone into the composition. (And yes, reflections in still water do feel reflective mentally, so allthough I wasn’t trying to create a pun it’s quite an apt one.)

These aren’t photos for looking at quickly, in my opinion: one needs to linger and enjoy them, as you’d enjoy being in a peaceful place. I hope you’ll visit the site and see the others.

Thanks to Debbie for permission to use the one in this post.