From childhood, we learn the colours of the electromagnetic spectrum that are visible to the human eye—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet—but the spectrum extends much wider than this. Below red are infrared light, microwaves and radio waves, and above violet are ultraviolet light, X-rays and gamma rays—all of which are undetectable to the human eye. Ultraviolet radiation is produced by high-temperature surfaces like the sun and is the cause of sunburn and skin cancers, but we also depend on it. It stimulates the production of vitamin D in the skin, which is essential for bone health and a healthy immune system—and a lack of it, especially during growth, puts us at risk of weak muscles, inadequate bone mineralization, skeletal deformities, and mineral loss. However, vitamin D is only produced in the skin between certain wavelengths of UV light: wavelengths that are almost never reached within the arctic circles. In the sunless Lovozero, in Russia’s north-west, young children are periodically exposed to UV radiation to prevent stunted growth, creating an imaginary summer—if only for a minute or two.
Mushroom! Mushroom! burning bright / In the forests of the night
They might not be the sapphire blue usually found in oceanic bioluminescent organisms, but the emerald Mycena lux-coeli mushrooms are dazzling just the same. Once thought to be solely indigenous to Tokyo’s Hachijojima Island, in 1995 researchers found the same mushroom growing in the deeply rural Southern Wakayama prefecture. They thrive in humid environments, sprouting from fallen chinquapin trees on the forest floor during Japan’s rainy season. They grow up to 2 cm in diameter and resemble the common brown enoki mushroom during the day, but in darkness, they show their true colours. The mushroom contains an enzyme known as luciferese, which oxidises and releases energy in the form of light—a green, ghostly light that glows through the forest dark. However, the mushrooms are prone to dehydration, and once the rain stops, they shrivel and die within a few days. Mushroom specialist Kunihiko Otsuki suggests that the purpose of their luminescence is to exploit bugs’ instincts to flock to light—the glow attracts insects such as crickets and crane flies, who munch on the mushroom and then inadvertently distribute spores through their droppings, ready to sprout a whole new generation of glowing mushrooms.
What weighs 220 pounds, looks like a rainbow, and is an homage to Alexander McQueen? Read on to find out how editor-in-chief Hissa Igarashi and fashion editor Sayuri Murakami created a show-stopper for the debut issue of TWELV Magazine.