I've looked at clouds for sometime now ...

Why, almost as a contradiction in terms, are some clouds hard-edged?

A defined boundary between the saturated air and the unsaturated air, sometimes due to the saturated air being pushed up by convection currents. In reality even the well defined ones aren’t all that well defined when you get up close.

Let’s take it from some people who’ve looked at them from both sides, the the scientists at Scientific American:

So clouds keep a straight edge because they don’t even think about speed. It’s just something they don’t need.

If you think you don’t understand clouds at all, you can always use the HOLODEC with Raymond Shaw, an atmospheric scientist at Michigan Technological University. (This is utterly gratuitous, but cool.):

When asked about the suggestive shape of the region captured in the HOLODEC, he said “Sometimes a long, oblong shape is just something to study intently.”


I really don’t know clouds. At all.

I believe its clouds illusions you are recalling.

A lot of the feathery cirrus-type clouds have soft-looking edges because of virga; that is to say, ice crystals fall out of the bottom of the cloud and sublime gradually on the way down.

If you manage to see these clouds in three dimensions (from both sides, that is) you might notice the tail of virga precipitation falling downwards into the wind.

Now that we’ve looked at clouds from both sides, can we get on to addressing the question of clouds in my coffee?
That’s my question! I’m sure you all find my question much more interesting. Let’s all address my question about clouds in my coffee. My question is what this Thread is really about. This Thread is about MEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!

Please note that we have not covered the way they appear from up and down yet.

Obligatory XKCD reference.

You probably think this thread is about you, don’t you? Don’t you? That would be so vain about you if you did.

Oh, that is beautiful.

I don’t know quite how to break this to you, but you don’t put marshmallows in coffee. You put them in hot chocolate. But then again, if you’re wealthy enough to fly your personal Learjet any old place just to take in a good solar eclipse, you can put whatever the fuck you want in your coffee.

At the heart of every cloud droplet is a little piece of plant semen … so yeah, you can put whatever you want into your coffee.

Alright, took some googling and connecting the dots of the pop-culture background, but that was pretty damn funny. Well played, sir. Well played.

Damn you Bienville! First, just reading your post got that song going through my head but I just was in a co-worker’s office and it came on the radio. It’s going to take me a week to get this outta my head!

You can get a similar effect with a low-tech solution. I’ve been wanting to do something like that for a while now.

I’ve been taking enhanced 3D pictures for quite a while now by moving 5 feet or more between exposures. It makes the parallax quite a bit larger, and even things that ought to be 3D appear in more extreme relief

(You can use a special “3D viewer”, like a stereopticon, or you can simply use the “crossed eye” method, with no special device. )

Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell
I’ve looked at clouds for sometime now …


Cumulus clouds (the big fluffy mostly-white ones that look like mountains of cotton candy) often have fairly flat, more-or-less sharply defined bottoms. They are puffy and fluffy on the sides and top.

Cumulus Clouds. Notice the sort of flat bottom in the fourth picture.

They tend to form over large fields or other areas where a warm patch of ground may form vertical updrafts, or thermals. Sailplane pilots especially look for cumulus clouds, and get directly below them and fly in tight circles (“thermaling”) to stay there, catching the updraft and gaining altitude.

One result, of course, is if you’re not paying attention, you can get updrafted right into the cloud, where visibility is zero. This is not a good place for a glider to be. Especially if you’re flying out of the long-gone glider port at Fremont, Ca., which is right in the general flight area of both San Francisco Int’l Airport and Oakland Int’l Airport. The Big Jets have no qualms about flying right through those clouds if they happen to be in the way, and they aren’t expecting to find gliders there.