How They Shine, by Susan Milius

Length: 537 words

The article, “How They Shine,” written by Susan Milius talks about iridescence. Iridescence is the effect of a symphony of light shifting with the angle of view. The question that is being asked in the article is iridescence meaningful or is it just pretty? Physicists have been discovering that birds, beetles, butterflies, and many other creatures created cutting-edge optical systems before modern technology did. Now, many biologists and other scientists are trying to answer this question, however many scientist have disagreed upon the answer. In the article, there are many opinions from several different scientists

Roslyn Dakin thinks male peacocks have a method to show off their finery to their mates. She hypothesizes that the males’ footwork maneuvers them and their audience to line up with the sun for the finale of their showing of their finery. She says the trick for conjuring colors from nothing depends upon the structure at the scale of hundreds of nanometers. When it is at this scale, the smallest branchings within the peacock’s feathers are coated with arrays of rods. When light bounces off, certain wavelengths combine to intensify a color as other wavelengths interfere with, and cancel each other out. On the other hand, Richard Prum, a biologist, disagrees with this theory. He says searching for such clues is pointless. He says iridescence may have nothing do with any genetic make up or characteristic of the peacock. He says it could merely be arbitrary or natural beauty.

From reading this article, I have learned many things. I did not know there was an effect such as iridescence. A biologist, Helen Ghiradella, has written numerous journals and articles on the scanning electron microscope images of the textures of animal surfaces. Animal surfaces are bumpy surfaces like rows of Christmas trees; they have an appearance like a honeycomb, and bristles that work like fiber optic cables.

Animals use traits like iridescence as signals. A widespread presumption that signals routinely carry information pertinent to the decision at hand. Some human signals, like onomatopoeic words, do carry clues to their meaning. Pop, snap, murmur. However, plenty of human signals, like the words plenty of human signals, do not. Genetic modeling shows that animal signals can easily arise without some innate relevant clue, such as a connection to male quality. Therefore, he hypothesizes that most animal signals will turn out to be like plenty of human signals.

The author did a good job writing the article. She presented the article in a way that is clear, concise, and to the point. It was easy to read and to understand. I do not have much of a science background and I found it very informative.

I think the intended audience of this article is anyone in the biology field. I think the article is well suited for the audience. I think the diversified opinions in the article are the strong points. I do not think the author appears to have a bias. I think the article contributes to the field because it offers information that is needed to understand iridescence and it offers different opinions and ideas from a wide range of biologist, physicists, and other scientists. I would not change the article in any way.

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