The pioneering naturalist John Muir held the poetic conviction that when we look closely at any aspect of our world, “the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.” Phase transitions are among the most beautiful and seemingly miraculous phenomena of the physical universe — emissaries of nature’s magnificence and might that bear, in their stormy and almost alchemical transformation of substance, a certain metaphorical allure that borders on the existential. If matter can transform so radically from one state of being to another, perhaps so can we — under the fertile pressure of the right conditions, even the most radical change is possible.
That material miraculousness is what Japanese-born, Alaska-based artist Ryota Kajita captures in his exquisite series Ice Formation — a series of photographs of various natural ice formations in the waters of Fairbanks, Alaska: otherworldly geometric patterns created by the bubbles that form as lake and river water freezes gradually from the surface down, trapping major greenhouse gasses like methane and carbon dioxide in the crystal lattice of ice.
Beneath the artful depiction of the phenomenon may lie a scientific key to climate…
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