Science Mystery Photo: Are these the pages of an ancient book?

Science Mystery Photo: Are these the pages of an ancient book? Flaming rivulets of lava? Go ahead and take a wild guess. 

Hint: These are extraordinarily efficient assembly lines producing up to 31,000 “products” per second or 2.7 billion per day! The special arrangement seen in the photos increases the surface area of the “factories” by 20 fold, with optimum spacing for maximum efficiency. 

Cool Fact: The products of this factory are released by a mechanism known as surface tension catapult, achieving speeds of  1.8 m per sec, although they only need to be ejected about 1 mm or so. 

Shhh! Do you already know what this is? Don’t be a spoilsport, be a fun guy (or gal!). Share an interesting fact about it in the comments. We’ll all be wiser in the end. 

Photo credits: Brian J. Kelly, Kip Taylor-Brown and Claudio Pia

#iseetheworldwithscience   #ScienceSunday  

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105 Responses to Science Mystery Photo: Are these the pages of an ancient book?

  1. E.E. Giorgi says:


    how cool (those facts, I mean, and the pics too)! I think I know what it is this time! 🙂


  2. Spa or pool cartridge filter

  3. Rajini Rao says:


    Beautiful macros, right E.E. Giorgi ?


  4. edit deleted


    …. fish use “these” too, but not for the same reason.

  5. E.E. Giorgi says:


    fantastic macros! and super cool factories indeed! 🙂


  6. One of my favourite varieties is the boletus, which have tube-gills. Wondering if the same ejection mechanism is in effect (or are they like miniature howitzers?).

  7. Rajini Rao says:


    Yes, indeed the biological term is lamellae, Chad W Darroch .


    Robert Cronkite , are they ejecting pool toys then 🙂

  8. Rajini Rao says:


    David Archer , there is something called a Buller’s drop that forms at the base of the “products” and propels it. 

  9. Rajini Rao says:


    I like your new hint, Chad W Darroch 🙂

  10. Kawthar A says:


    I’m such a fun gal, so I’m keeping the answer for me 😛 message me Rajini with the answer LOL 


    Off to bed with me, nicely written 🙂


  11. Very nice images and a cool and remarkably efficient process. 🙂

  12. Bill Carter says:


    These certainly ensure something is always among us 🙂

  13. Rajini Rao says:


    I’ll insert a delicious recipe (hint hint) in your dreams and tell you the answer, Kawthar AL ABDALLA . Good night! 

  14. Kawthar A says:


    Gotcha! 😉 see ya! 


  15. I know this, I know this. ha!


  16. Next time you come to Barcelona, Rajini Rao, you must taste some of the traditional ones. Usually just roasted with garlic, persil, and some salt and olive oil.

  17. Rajini Rao says:


    I discovered a surprising amount of quantitative research on the efficiency of the process, Louise Hughes . Right you are, William Carter 🙂

  18. Jim Donegan says:


    Well I had this totally wrong – thought they were pictures of a mushroom until I saw the hints!


  19. I know I know I know!!!


    : )


  20. Yes, Rajini Rao – the link works. Cool stuff!

  21. Rajini Rao says:


    Are you just exploding, like the things in these images Angelique Smith ? Lorna Salgado too, I imagine 😉

  22. Rajini Rao says:


    Jim Donegan , my hint is somewhat obscure and possibly misleading 🙂


    Víktor Bautista i Roca , that’s a date! I’ve forgotten what persil is. 


  23. Fun guy is a bit of a hint, isn’t it 🙂


  24. Natalia Mitin Sort of – it’s something that can be used… at parties!

  25. Rajini Rao says:


    Natalia Mitin  Better not be sexist, there are fun gals too 😉


  26. Rajini Rao It’s parsley written in French, sorry! I was mixing up languages!


  27. If I was small enough, I would sit on one

  28. Rajini Rao says:


    Jim Donegan , you will probably enjoy the physics of ejection in the linked paper above. It is carefully calibrated to launch the product just far enough to escape from the “lamellae” but not enough to embed into the next one. 


  29. My wild guess was something related to intestinal lining, but I could not resist researching it and found the answer … I lacked will power to await your answer.

  30. Rajini Rao says:


    Vincent Peralta , the villi of the intestinal lining also increase surface area, but hopefully not for ballistic expulsion :O


    Of course, you are free to do a Google image search or anything else. It’s just fun 🙂

  31. Rajini Rao says:


    Aha, now you are the real expert Dan Bowden . Did you know that the spacing between them has been carefully optimized by those secondary and sometimes tertiary lamellae?


  32. You REALLY caused me to LOL! And I wholeheartedly agree with you. Thank you for spreading happiness & laughter through science

  33. Jim Donegan says:


    Rajini Rao Thanks. Will check it out.


  34. I do not like spoil sports. Great post…


  35. Is this a book or am I hallucinating?

  36. Rajini Rao says:


    Dan Bowden , although I love to make a pizza (and eat it too), I wouldn’t want this exact specimen on there. Let’s fly agaric and leave it be 😉

  37. Rajini Rao says:


    You’re just a fun gal, La Vergne Lestermeringolo Thatch 🙂

  38. Rajini Rao says:


    Great anecdote re. Claudius. This is how Nero of the fiddling fame became emperor of Rome! 

  39. Rajini Rao says:


    A magical trip, although I wouldn’t know anything about that Thex Dar :O

  40. Jim Donegan says:


    Dan Bowden Mine was unintentional. Some of the comments made me think it could be the filtration system in some weird type of mollusc or something!

  41. Azlin Bloor says:


    Looking at these, I’m also thinking the non fishy sort of non breathing apparatus. It’s 11pm, that didn’t even make sense to me! Right I’m off to bed!


  42. the incredible acceleration must be a fun ride though, short distance but fun ride 🙂

  43. Rajini Rao says:


    Definitely, does Víktor Bautista i Roca . The first one looked like the parsley was in a pesto like consistency! 

  44. Rajini Rao says:


    Azlin Bloor , no worries. Good night and tomorrow we can cook up some recipes with less deadly versions of these. 

  45. Azlin Bloor says:


    Deadly…mmm, the plot thickens? Good night! x

  46. Rajini Rao says:


    That’s a creative guess, JP Cavano .They do look like rock formations. But they are a living thing. 

  47. Rajini Rao says:


    I plus both correct and incorrect answers 😉

  48. Bobby Ryan says:


    Fun guy Rajini Rao ? LMFAO!! You know Rajini Rao , the funniest people in the room are usually the smartest!

  49. Rajini Rao says:


    Bobby Ryan , so its okay to think of myself as fun gal? 😉


  50. The geologist was thinking about some Fungia sp. solitary coral.


    http://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fungia_Coral_Top_Macro.jpg


    Interesting to see the convergence of shapes. Like evolution constantly reinventing the same structures.

  51. Rajini Rao says:


    That’s a fantastic replicate, Olivier Malinur . Before clicking your link, I thought of the brain coral, but this one is a much closer match. Convergence in evolution, indeed.


    I’m also struck by the efficiency of the lamellae. You might enjoy this diagram: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2891949/figure/F3/


  52. I am so glad I commented in this thread. 😀

  53. Mary T says:


    I think I have it, but let’s see.


  54. Looks like a mushroom to me.

  55. Rajini Rao says:


    That is one extraordinary building, Peter Harris ! It looked like there was actually a desk in the center 🙂


  56. You can grow your own psilobicin with these guys


  57. By those hints and descriptions…they sure do look like “fun guy”s, no?

  58. Mary T says:


    I think my guess is too obvious.  I’m thinking it’s something similar, yet obscure.


  59. I think this is a gills( wide and thin sheet-like plates radiating from  stem) of mushroom.


    A lamella, or gill, is a papery hymenophore rib under the cap of some mushroom species, most often but not always agarics. The gills are used by the mushrooms as a means of spore dispersal, and are important for species identification base on shape  there are different types like  Adnate,  Adnexed,  Decurrent,   Emarginate,  Free,  Seceding,  Sinuate, Subdecurrent 


  60. It could also be a 3D imaging of Golgi apparatus.


  61. Golgi can have in section this lamellar aspect.


  62. Rajini Rao i am not looking at the comments, so here is my pure guess: Crusoe may have lived on something build by this.

  63. Rajini Rao says:


    Now you have me guessing on your guess, nomad dimitri . A palm tree?


    The mystery objects are small, really close to the ground, and not sturdy enough for a raft or hut. 


  64. Rajini Rao i was thinking that they live underwater & can build entire islands (or barriers)

  65. Rajini Rao says:


    nomad dimitri , it’s not, but as pointed out above by Olivier Malinur there is a striking convergence in appearance. “The geologist was thinking about some Fungia sp. solitary coral.


    http://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fungia_Coral_Top_Macro.jpg


    Interesting to see the convergence of shapes. Like evolution constantly reinventing the same structures. ”


  66. Rajini Rao that’s exactly what i thought it was.  I love the economy of shapes within the incredible diversity in nature

  67. Rajini Rao says:


    nomad dimitri , if you’ve not yet guessed, these are the gills on the underside of a mushroom and function to disperse fungal spores both abundantly and explosively. 

  68. Azlin Bloor says:


    Yay, 11pm or not, I was right – for a change!


  69. Rajini Rao interesting.  in both cases, a way to maximize surface area, one for absorption, the other for dispersion.  

  70. Rajini Rao says:


    Now we can talk recipes, Azlin Bloor ! 😉


    nomad dimitri , I can’t quite wrap my head around 2 billion fungal spores per ‘shroom per day.

  71. Mary T says:


    Wow!  I actually guessed right on a science post :-). 

  72. Azlin Bloor says:


    Mara Rose that’s exactly how I felt! x

  73. Worldraves _ says:


    I’m with Natalia Mitin on this I won’t spore all this mush keep to myself

  74. Rajini Rao says:


    Well, that was a hallucinogenic experience, and accurately so John Condliffe .

  75. Rajini Rao says:


    Peace brother! Here is the album of macro mushroom images that served as the mystery source: http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/news-delicate-beauty-mushrooms-macro?image=1


    The gills on the underside of mushrooms produce copious spores that are ejected using a unique surface tension property of a moisture drop, so that they fall between the lamellae and are caught in the eddies of air circulating underneath, for dispersal. 

  76. Blair Allen says:


    Looks organic. Maybe a fungus. Mushroom? 

  77. Ehab Shakir says:


    This is the undersurface of a mushroom cap called gills

  78. Dana Crowe says:


    It’s science and art. It’s some what looks like jelly fish of the deep sea.


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