Thursday, October 11, 2012

J Is For Jack-O-Lanterns

Because I already touched on my complete lack of skills when it comes to carving pumpkins, I was sort of struggling over what to write. I mean, there isn't a heck of a lot about October that starts with the letter 'J'. If my topic for this challenge was Girls Gone Wild, then I could use Jello-Shots as my J. Clearly, I wasn't thinking when I selected this theme.

Anyway, I got to Googling things on the Internet and my mad-happy searching, lead me to an article that I thought to be interesting. Apparently, carved pumpkins were named after phenomenon 'ignis fatuus', which is when a weird light flickers over peat bogs. Ignis Fatuus means foolish fire, but in English folklore this strange light is called many other names such as Will-o'-the-wisp, hinkypunk, hobby lantern and, you got it, jack-o'-lantern. Foolish fire is a ghostly light that is seen at night over bogs, swamps and marshes, and resembles a flickering lamp. It is said that it will fade if you approach it and is meant to draw travellers from safer paths. In America, paranormal enthusiasts call this strange occurrence spook-lights or orbs.

Of course, many of you already know my adoration with bioluminescence  While this isn't exactly the same thing, it kind of goes hand in hand with glowing nature. And the awesomeness of the world in which we live.

So, what is responsible for this bizarre happening?

Well, fairies, of course. And mischievous sprites who are eager to lead weary travellers astray.

Okay, maybe not. But that's what folklore says.

What does science say?

Italian physicist Alessandro Volta was the first to scientifically explain ignes fatui. He proposed that natural lighting interacted with marsh gases, such as methane, and created this spooky phenomenon. While his theory was commonly dismissed as utter ridiculousness, it was later proved to be true. But why did the light fade when people approached it? The answer was pretty simple. As someone neared the light, the gases would be disrupted and dispersed elsewhere. It was the agitation of the air by moving objects that made the ignes fatui disperse and appear to be moving away.

Nature is full of such trickery.

And thus ends today's lesson.

Looking forward to tackling 'K' tomorrow. See you then!

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