Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The World's shiniest living thing

I don't normally post links to other blogs in my blog as a main blog post (did I say "blog" enough in that sentence?), but this one was too good to ignore. If you're into plants, and science in general, Ed Yong is a brilliant writer. He has a blog with Discover Magazine called Not Exactly Rocket Science, and blogs about various phenomena in science that should be considered "cool" to the average human being. Most of these topics are cutting-edge science, and he references the just-released papers from which he gets his information at the bottom. Sometimes there are scientist interviews to go along with the blog, sometimes he just writes about his opinion on the topic, sometimes it's a layperson's overview of the topic. Whatever the style, to me he has the dream job: making advances in science, whether "applied" or "pure" science, accessible to the public. Mr. Yong, if you decide to retire at 40, please keep me in mind as a replacement for your blog.

I saw this blog post courtesy of Kew Gardens on Twitter. The title of the blog instantly caught my attention: the world's shiniest living thing. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I absolutely LOVE shiny objects. If they're also pink, even better. But the world's shiniest living thing?! I'm intrigued. And of course, like all things cool, it's a plant. The name of the plant is Pollia condensata, and it's native to a very small region in Africa, specifically Ghana. The cell walls of the berries are arranged in such a way that light refraction is optimized, leading to a very, very shiny fruit. And because this is a permanent structural part of the berry, the effect lasts even when dried down. The individual cells of the berry also have varying thicknesses of cell walls and these wall layers are different distances apart, causing the light refracted to your eye to be at different wavelengths. So not only does this berry shine, it also SPARKLES. Seriously? They need to market this plant. I want one! Look at how pretty it is!

If you would like to read all about Pollia condensata, Ed Yong's blog post about it, which is brilliantly written, is HERE.

If you would also like to read the article from which he obtains his information, it is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, or PNAS (one of the most highly respected scientific journals in the world). The direct link to the paper can be found HERE. If you would like to read the entire paper, you can purchase a one-article access (or an entire year's subscription, if you're really into science and have a lot of money; it's expensive!) or find someone else (academic institution, library, etc.) that has a subscription and allows free access.