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12 December 2013 1:00 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
The iconic 125-year-old Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose, California, is facing the threat of closure...
Recent results from the Curiosity Mars rover have helped scientists formulate a plan for the next phase of its mission...
A new, remarkably powerful drug that cripples the hepatitis C virus (HCV) came to market last week, but it sells for $...
In pretoothbrush populations, gumlines would often be marred by a thick, visible crust of calcium phosphate, food...
Evolutionary biologists have long studied how the Mexican tetra, a drab fish that lives in rivers and creeks but has...
Victorian astronomers spent countless hours laboriously charting the positions of stars in the sky. Such sky mapping,...
In an ambitious project to study 1000 years of sickness and health, researchers are excavating the graveyard of the now...
Stefan Behnisch has won awards for designing science labs and other buildings that are smart, sustainable, and...
- 12 December 2013 1:00 pm , Vol. 342 , #6164
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ScienceShot: Light Me Up, Buttercup
13 December 2011 7:01 pm
Not sure you like butter? The buttercup knows, casting a yellow spot on the chin of all butter-lovers, or so says childhood lore. Now researchers have illuminated the flower's ability to ferret out butter fans. Armed with microscopes and a spectrometer, which analyzes the wavelengths of reflected light, the team found that the petals of the buttercup (Ranunculus repens) have a transparent outer coating that reflects light, enhancing the blossom's shine. Beneath that coating, a layer of yellow pigment rests on a layer of air. Light passes through the pigment, bounces off the air and zips back through the pigment before reaching a viewer's eye, according to a study published online today in The Journal of the Royal Society Interface. The light's double passage through the pigment creates an intense yellow. The buttercup is so glossy that if held at the right angle, it reflects sunlight onto human skin, like a mirror. Thanks to its pigment, the flower reflects yellow light—even onto the chins of butter-haters.
See more ScienceShots.