mesocyclone supercell gif westpoint nebraska

Science in GIFs:  A Mesocyclone Supercell at West Point Nebraska

Why is this not a tornado?

Technically, a “tornado” is a rotating vortex cloud that touches the ground. Needs a funnel first. We’re looking at a “mesocyclone” which is the rapidly rotating core of a supercell from which tornadoes can form. Now, a tornado could form from this storm at any time, so it would have a tornado warning attached to it. These kinds of rotation are what is seen on radar.


refraction of light glass of water

Science in GIFs: Refraction of light through a glass of water

There’s more than refraction to the Reverse arrow illusion, however.

Just because light bends when it travels through different materials, doesn’t explain why the arrow reverses itself.  To explain this, you must think about the glass of water as if it is a magnifying glass. When light goes through a magnifying glass the light bends toward the center. Where the light all comes together is called the focal point, but beyond the focal point the image appears to reverse because the light rays that were bent pass each other and the light that was on the right side is now on the left and the left on the right, which makes the arrow appear to be reversed. Via


mushroom cloud convection gif

Science in GIFs: Mushroom Cloud

And here’s why an atom bomb explosion forms a mushroom cloud:

You don’t need an atom bomb to make a mushroom cloud, just convection. Mushroom clouds typically occur when an explosion produces a massive fireball. Since the fireball is very hot and thus less dense than the surrounding air, it rises rapidly, forming the cap of the mushroom cloud. In its wake the fireball leaves a column of heated air. This acts as a chimney, drawing in smoke and hot gases from ground fires. These form the stalk of the mushroom. Since the center is the hottest part of the mushroom cloud, it rises faster than the outer edges, giving the impression that the cap is curling down around the stalk. Thus the familiar fungal form.