I will confess something. After having lived close to 15 years in Northern Norway, scenes like the one above appear in front of my eyes so often that I do not look twice – normally. Unless, of course, something hits me straight in the face in all its glorious obviousity .
There’s a little creek making its way through the brownish grass down to a beach. There is a quay in the background and some sky and, truth be told, that picture would probably have been much nicer if the camera had been turned onto the village there with all of those mighty mountains in the background. You do not know that village. Picturesque does only begin to describe it – and perhaps one should not have shown these ugly contraptions on the right-hand side of the picture at all.
Then, of course, it hits you in all its glorious obviousity.
This image is not just beautiful, but marvellous on a grander scale than you might imagine. Let us begin:
Take the blue sky in the background. It is there due to what is called Rayleigh scattering, which is a bit weird but can be calculated quite accurately. It is not difficult in that sense. Study physics and you will understand it.
There is brownish grass in the foreground. Do you know that the colour you see is what is left after the plant is done eating up the sunlight? It takes away most of the colour, too. Powerful stuff!
The leaning poles there to the right surely have to be boring, right? Yet, they remind every passer-by of the strong, subarctic winds at our latitudes. There is not much area to that pole that the wind could take a hold of and make it lean; it does so anyway. Do you know how wind is generated? The idea is really simple, yet when all comes together things take some getting used to. There is a reason, after all, why weather forecasting is so difficult: Chaos.
I do not know too much about geology, but the idea that the way mountains build up can be modelled with the help of fluid dynamics equations makes me smile every single time I see a mountain range. Yes, that is every day. 🙂
Then there is the beach. It is rather bright, which indicates a high content of quartz in it, which in turn is not all that surprising since the mountains at Andøya contain a lot of the stuff, too. The rest is wind and weather doing what millstones may have difficulties doing, grinding mountains, that is, to create a beautiful, sandy beach.
Oh, and do not forget the quay. If you zoom in on it, it looks as if some stones have been stacked onto each other – which, strangely, is true. The concrete keeping them together is almost invisible as you approach. We need the concrete in there because it is bigger than the pole and sits in water and air. The pressures it has to withstand are enormous.
Most of the stuff I just mentioned I have only rudimentary knowledge of. That is fine. I know how long it takes to understand things. The way I see it, I will continue studying and finding out tomorrow. Today, the knowledge of how much there is underlying the view in the image is enough for me to enjoy nature just a tad more, even at Andøya’s perhaps least spectacular beach.
Alexander is a physicist, teacher and science communicator who is currently working at the Norwegian Centre for Space-related Education at Andøya Space Center in Norway. Even though, in his case, work and play do overlap, the content on this webpage is entirely private. You can follow Alexander on Twitter, Facebook and Google +