It’s ironic how lovely a deadly hurricane can look from outer space. It resembles a spiral galaxy, which also looks much more docile from afar than it would feel if you could ricochet around its gaseous stars. (See the resemblance below.)


Spirals hold a lofty place in nature, math, and art (see this Designer’s Guide to the Golden Ratio). Seeing spiral clouds creep around Earth can be mesmerizing, like watching a colossal counterpart to an earthbound lowly snail.

But of course, the results of this above-Earth beauty are anything but beautiful. The images from Texas this week, and from South Asia, are appalling. Still awe-inspiring, but in a nasty, dark way. The juxtaposition is striking, although only meteorologists and geo-nerds like me pay attention to the satellite view.

Wispy beauty versus hideous destruction. It’s all a matter of perspective, yet it’s obviously the human scale that’s really relevant and needed in a time of human tragedy.