of sciences


Fossil Fish Skull (Xiphanctinus audax, Cretaceous) -  Niobrara Formation, Kansas

This sinister looking skull once belonged to a predatory fish that dominated the Western Interior Seaway known as Xiphactinus which was much longer than any bony fish of today. The beast is represented here by just a skull and some post-cranial material, but the point gets across nonetheless.

R Aquarii is known as a symbiotic star made up of a white dwarf–red giant binary pairing. These two stars are tied in orbit around one another with a period of around 44 years. The primary star is a variable red giant, meaning it changes temperature and undergoes drastic brightness fluctuations. The secondary star is a white dwarf that sucks in material from the red giant. Some of the extra material is sometimes ejected, forming the incredibly stunning nebula surrounding it.

(Credit: Hubble Space Telescope/Judy Schmidt)

Today’s entry was written by Guest Professor Sectonia, a marine biologist with interests in most fields of science!

Kartana, also known as UB-04: Blade is one of the mysterious Ultra Beasts discovered when Alola was revealed. It’s known that Kartana can cut down entire steel buildings in one fell swoop, but how can a thing made from paper do such a thing? How can something be so sharp enough that a simple swoop from one of its blades allows it to cut steel? 

To start with, we need to understand how paper works, and what could go with paper to create Kartana. Paper is made with cellulose fiber, which are gotten from trees. Cellulose fiber is a glucose (simple sugar) monomer. That means it is simply a long string-like molecule that’s been created to be a part of something larger (usually a polymer). Cellulose fiber is super strong because when these monomers are close to each other, they form hydrogen bonds, which allows them to stick together and be stiff and strong enough for daily usage. The cellulose itself comes from the bark, wood or leaves of plants, making trees ideal sources of cellulose fiber. This is what paper looks like under a microscope:

Paper, by itself, isn’t too impressive, with the worst damage being paper cuts. However, when you cut it, the real danger begins to show. Cutting paper allows the cellulose fiber to stick out from the paper. This is largely unnoticed by us, since the cellulose fiber is sticking out on a microscopic level, but the fibers sticking out makes the paper more dangerous, since the fibers are now able to contribute to the cutting power and make the paper more dangerous. 

Instead of bonding to each other, the loose fibers are now free to wreak havoc. Kartana’s shape is likely cut like this, contributing to its power. If you don’t believe that paper can be dangerous, watch this video of paper being used to slice through wood: 

Now, an oddity of Kartana is that it has a secondary steel typing. Why? Shouldn’t Kartana be pure grass if it was made from paper, and paper is made from trees? Not exactly. Paper tends to have fillers in it to smooth out the paper and make it stronger. Fillers are tiny particles that are mixed into the cellulose fibers, usually minerals like clay, carbon, chalk, or metals. So, if Kartana’s paper was filled with tiny particles of metals and minerals, it would be stronger, sharper, and explain its steel typing.

The metal used to fill the paper has to meet specific criteria to be a part of Kartana, because we know Kartana has low special defense, and susceptivity to fire. The metal has to have a melting point low enough that regular fire melts it, but not so low that it melts upon touching human skin (like gallium). One possible metal that meets all of the qualifications is bismuth

Just like any metals, if you’re careful enough, bismuth can be sharpened enough to cut something. This is important because the smaller the area that is being applied to a surface, the more pressure the blade is able to exert on that surface to tear it. This property also tells us why Kartana is so small (only one foot tall!) when the other Ultra Beasts seems so big. Because Kartana is so small, Kartana is very sharp, making it a more dangerous blade.

Kartana is made of strong cellulose fibers filled with tiny particles of bismuth. Its metal fillings and small size enable it to cut down enemies with razor sharp precision.


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