The Big Picture: Hurricanes

By Phil Plait | September 8, 2008 3:01 pm

The Boston Globe’s Big Picture section is rapidly becoming my favorite site on the web. It features dazzling hi-res photos with various themes. They’ve done it again this week: hurricanes, as seen from space.

Hurricane Emily and the Moon as seen from the space station

That’s hurricane Emily and the Moon, as photographed in 2005 by an astronaut on board the International Space Station. There are lots more there for you to gawk at.

… and it reminds me how miserly Nature is with shapes. Hurricanes look a lot like cream stirred into coffee, and the physics is similar. However, spiral galaxies are spirals for an entirely different reason. But to our eyes, they bear a striking resemblance. Their symmetry, their composition, their apparent grace all lend themselves for us to be awestruck… but for hurricanes, on a closer scale, they are truly frightening. With Ike currently bearing down on the Gulf coast, it’s good to remember that beauty from afar can be deceiving.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (25)

  1. OMFSM! Galaxies are really stellar hurricanes! My eyes are now open! ūüėČ ūüėõ

    I do think I have found a new background image though!

  2. I love the Boston Globe Big Picture. Thanks for turning me on to it!

  3. Davidlpf

    No hurricanes have nothing have to do spinning cream in coffee. You see charged particles start spinning in the same direction in the upper atmosphere. Then the charged particles attract water droplets and with all the particles spinning the wind picks and you have hurricane. :-)

  4. Dave C

    As a resident of Lafayette LA, I much prefer this view of a hurricane. Any chance I could evacuate to the ISS? NASA?

  5. Davidlpf

    It is really a great picture it is amazing how something so dangerous can be so beautiful.

  6. Todd W.


    “You see charged particles start spinning in the same direction in the upper atmosphere.”

    So it’s a plasma?

  7. Davidlpf

    Yes everything is caused by plasma.

  8. Davidlpf:

    “Everything is caused by Plasma”

    Does that include the really bad reality shows that come on my plasma screen TV?

  9. Davidlpf

    ok maybe not everything.

  10. Wow, that Boston Globe link might be one of the prettiest pages on the whole internet.

    P.S. Nice work on the padding fix. ūüėČ

  11. Plasma people are neo-cataclysmist who swear that electricity is the unconscious God and Velikovsky was misjudged. Oh, and light never really bends. B… b… but gravitational lensing effect… — Hogwash.

    I’d disrecommend watching Thunderbolts of the Gods if you want to know more (which I also disrecommend)

  12. Tatarize… no, please not Thunderbolts…..

  13. Davidlpf

    I have already watche thunderbolts, actually downloaded and burned to dvd with a lot of other videos. For about three years I have had discussions here in the BAUT bulletin board and JREF discussion forums with electric universe and plasma universe people.

    [rantmode engaged]

    Here is the thing I atternded two different universities to try get a physics degree. The first place had a plasma physicists and he never mentioned it he used space plasmas to explain things like the aurora, not how the galaxies are held together and how planets move around the sun and stars around the galaxy. By the way he recieved his masters and Ph.d from MIT. Then at the second place which has an astronomy department still no mention of that certain theory but still gravity and the fact there must be some unknown amount of matter to account for the predicted motion of a galaxy and the observed showing there must be some hidden matter that effected the rotation of the galaxy. There are objects tat are extremely small that might have a very small mass but they could be a lot of then like
    neutronos or very large objects located in the outskrits of galaxy. There is nothing mysterous about what dark matter is it is objects we cannot see because they do not give off light. Also another point I am trying to make it is not that I a parrot of the Dr. Plait or any one else, he is bringing science to the masses and is doing a great job at doing it.
    Now to Nathan Myers, first off now you linking to a blog by a biologists. I read a few posts there and in one she reports about how earthworms have three different kind of sperm. There is a webpage that googled by using your last name and it claims all males have three different kinds of sperm, kind of jumping the gun. I think you are the type person who sees on scientists saying that plasma is the dominate force in the universe or plasma was shown to do this in lab and jump the gun there also. Eletricity and magnetism is and important force but also is gravity , the weak and strong force.
    sorry for rant
    [/rantmode disengaged]

  14. Davidlpf

    I posted that because it was building up for a long time.

  15. Hurricane Milky Way is now a category three… all vacationing Dark Matter in its way has been told to evacuate…

  16. Davidlpf
  17. What better counterexample for those creationists claiming that evolutionary development is impossible because the second law of thermodynamics says that everything tends toward disorder.

  18. Michelle

    Hubba hubba! Now that’s my kind of sexy pictures!!

    Instant Desktop.

  19. kuhnigget

    Love this comment from the Boston Globe’s comment section:

    “Bored … Only can see the white swirls, should have some photos with a broader perspective.”

    How much more freakin’ broad can you get than orbiting the planet? Oh, wait, I guess they should have included pictures of houses and stuff gettin’ blowed up real good.

  20. killyosaur

    Beautiful pic, is now my new desktop wallpaper (replacing the default one that came from dell, though my desktop computer still has a blood elf on it.)

  21. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    You see charged particles start spinning in the same direction in the upper atmosphere. Then the charged particles attract water droplets and with all the particles spinning the wind picks and you have hurricane.

    ROTFL! Add that the spin is a sign of intelligent design (with an intelligently designed hat tip to John Kingman) and you have your very own intelligently designed plasma universe woo. (Or is that “woo woo”?)

  22. Todd W.


    “Or is that ‚Äúwoo woo‚ÄĚ?”

    Depends on how fun a ride it is.

  23. Kat

    Very nice. Big Picture is one of my new favorites, too—my desktop background is the NASA VAB with a storm rolling in, from one of their previous features.

  24. Chris G

    Yikes, that one with the solar panels is one of the most disorienting pictures I’ve ever seen. I keep thinking I’m looking UP past skyscrapers…


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