Saturday 24 April 2021

Gyroid Beauty

 Having remarked yesterday that butterflies are 'few and far between', I must add that this was certainly not true of the Brimstones that were flying at one of my favourite local butterfly spots this morning. They were out in unusually high numbers, both the sulphur-yellow males and the paler, greenish-white females, all flying with every appearance of gusto, despite the lingering chill in the air. They were a joy to see (as were the few Orange Tips and the more frequent Peacocks), but I was hoping for a sight of two other spring species: the Green Hairstreak and the Grizzled Skipper. If there were Skippers, they quite eluded my search of their usual patch, but, to my delight, I was soon spotting Green Hairstreaks, several of which obligingly landed and gave me a close-up sight of their beautiful, iridescent green underwings. 
  In the course of researching my forthcoming (hopefully, some time, in some form) long essay/ short book on butterflies, I discovered that scientists have been taking a particular interest in the emerald sheen of the Green Hairstreak's underwings. This is, it seems, a demonstration in nature of a structure that originated as a purely theoretical entity – the gyroid. Defined as an 'infinitely connected triply periodic minimal surface', this is a kind of three-dimensional honeycomb structure, unique in having triple junctions and no lines of reflectional symmetry. The gyroid could, we are told, have important 'real-world' applications in computer electronics and anti-forgery logos. So, as it flutters about the sunny hedgerows, the little Green Hairstreak is, all unwittingly, at the cutting edge of science. 

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