January 22, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

Butterfly Wings Flash Shiny Optical Tricks

You can get brilliant colors without pigment if you build patterns near the wavelengths of light.  Butterflies have the trick down to a science.  Their wings shimmer and shine with brilliant colors produced by nanostructures that scientists want to imitate.
    Science Daily told how butterflies and moths, even the white-winged varieties, use nanostructures to produce brilliant colors and brighter whites.  Marco Giraldo, a new PhD at the University of Groningen, has made understanding the optical principles his project.  Scientists still do not understand exactly how the nanostructures work; for instance, they do not know how precise wavelengths are absorbed, and others reflected.  “Giraldo is the first to clarify how the colour of these butterflies is influenced by the nanostructural characteristics.”  His research has already turned up some design marvels:

Giraldo also discovered that the wings of [Cabbage] Whites are constructed in a surprisingly effective way.  Both sides of the wings have two layers of overlapping scales that reflect light.  The more scales there are, the more light is reflected.  This light reflection is very important as butterflies want to be seen. Giraldo discovered that these two layers form an optimal construction: with more than two layers the reflection may be improved, but the wing would become disproportionately heavy.

Surprisingly, the males and females absorb UV light differently, allowing the sexes to recognize one another.
    Young fashion-conscious teens may be the beneficiaries of this research.  “It may be possible to apply the nanostructures observed in butterflies to create impressive optic effects in paint, varnish, cosmetics, packaging materials and clothes,” the article ended.  “Industry is thus following butterfly wing research with great interest.”

Much great scientific work is being done without any reference to Darwin and his Tinker Bell tale.  The Darwiniacs are wrong to think the US will fall behind in science unless his bacteria-to-man story is taught as fact.  On the contrary; unlatching the old ball and chain will be liberating to the real scientists.

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