Friday, December 13, 2013

Happy as kings

In a few days I will make the transition to Exuma, our island in the sun. As usual, I'll be anxious to see what damage we've sustained from the two banes of island existence –- termites and rust.

Who can love termites or rust?

Oh, wait. Have you ever seen a termite up close? I mean, really close? As with a scanning electron microscope (SEM)? Take a look at the creepy-crawlies here. How can one not love even the most insidious insect when you see the astounding complexity of a fly's eye, or a termite's chewing mouth parts. The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings. (Who said that? Give me a minute; it'll come to me.)

OK, OK, a termite up close is a thing of beauty. But rust? Rust is rust. A shiny piece of metal –- a handle on the stove, a hinge on the door, the wheels on the terrace loungers - – goes all ugly. More work to do, things to replace.

And just when the sanding and painting and replacing begin to haunt my anticipations, along comes this cover of Science:

Guess what we are looking at? Rust! Iron oxide on painted metal. Up close. SEM close. A patch of surface smaller than the period at the end of this sentence. (Click to enlarge.)

Like an invisibly small rose garden. Those tiny platelets as delicate as petals. Its own astonishing complexity. Its own rare and exquisite beauty.

We stumble around in this world like galoots with other whole universes –- the very big, the very small –- unseen around us. Give the scientific way of knowing this: It has revealed worlds unseen, worlds in which we swim all unawares..

Oh, yeah. Robert Lewis Stevenson. He got that one right.

(I'll be in transition early next week. Back as soon as I can.)