Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Great Lentil in the Sky

Hey, everyone! Thing is doubly neat!

Do you remember those cheap little childhood whatsits that would look different when viewed from different angles? You know what I mean: They’d be on cards or toy packaging or maybe on the toys themselves, and viewing from one side of the other would show you one of two possible pictures.

Here, like this:


From one side, Donald Duck is happily watching the TV, but from the other, that TV screen savage has shot him in the skull with an arrow. Hilarious! Now, the nature of this technology has been problematic to me for a long time, not because I was troubled by how it worked — it's magic, duh — but because I didn’t know what it was called. And, as the previous paragraph demonstrates, it’s not something that I can succinctly describe. Thus, for a long time, I was unable to put a name to this phenomenon. But now I know: it’s lenticular printing, which composes an image from tiny triangular ridges that show one of two possible pictures when viewed from either side. See?


Hence that zippy noise you’d make if you ran your fingernail across the surface.

The thing is, this world lenticular — in practice, “like a lens,” but literally meaning “like a lentil” — also refers to this totally awesome but (I think) totally unrelated meteorological phenomenon, lenticular clouds. Once more, see?


The thing is, the cloud actually does kind of look like a lentil, but it’s their resemblance to flying saucers that has people taking notice of them. It’s not a wholly unreasonable reaction, I guess.


Anyway, there’s a post up on The Awl about how freakishly beautiful these clouds can be.


Don’t you think, though, that people would be a lot more up-in-arms about these formations in the sky if they thought we were being invaded by giant lentils? 

Now it’s all I can think about.

2 comments:

  1. Worth noting, too, that our English word "lens" itself comes directly from the notion that the ground glass resembles the shape of a lentil! http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=lens So the next time you put in some contact lenses, think about little beans for your eyes, I guess.

    (PS: sorry if this is a repeat comment – tried to submit it earlier, not sure it actually made it anywhere)

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    1. Which is weird because I'd always heard that carrots were the ones that were supposed to be good for your eyes.

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