Posts Tagged ‘insects’

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Small animals see in slow motion, study finds

September 20, 2013

Time doesn’t fly if you’re a fly, a new study suggests. In fact, flies excel at dodging our slaps and swats because they perceive the passage of time more slowly than we do. Animals with smaller bodies and faster metabolic rates perceive time more slowly than we do, researchers say, letting them soak up more information per second.

We tend to assume time is the same for everyone, but according to research published in the journal Animal Behaviour, it has different speeds for different species. Small-bodied animals with fast metabolic rates — whether they’re house flies or hummingbirds — perceive more information in a unit of time, the study finds, meaning they experience action more slowly than large-bodied animals with slower metabolism, including humans.

If this reminds you of a certain 1999 science-fiction movie, you’re on the right track. The study was led by scientists from Ireland’s Trinity College Dublin, which issued a press release that explains the findings with a dusty pop-culture reference: “For example, flies owe their skill at avoiding rolled-up newspapers to their ability to observe motion on finer timescales than our own eyes can achieve, allowing them to avoid the newspaper in a similar fashion to the ‘bullet time’ sequence in the popular film ‘The Matrix.”

Excerpt from an article written RUSSELL MCLENDON at MNN. Continue THERE

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The Reach Of Resonance

May 27, 2013

Filmed in ten countries, “The Reach Of Resonance” is a meditation on the meaning of music, which juxtaposes the creative paths of four musicians who use music to cultivate a deeper understanding of the world around them. Among them are Miya Masaoka using music to interact with insects and plants; Jon Rose, utilizing a violin bow to turn fences into musical instruments in conflict zones ranging from the Australian outback to Palestine; John Luther Adams translating the geophysical phenomena of Alaska into music; and Bob Ostertag, who explores global socio-political issues through processes as diverse as transcribing a riot into a string quartet, and creating live cinema with garbage.

By contrasting the creative paths of these artists, and an unexpected connection between them by the world renowned Kronos Quartet, the film explores music not as a form of entertainment, career, or even self-expression, but as a tool to develop more deeply meaningful relationships with people and the complexities of the world they live in. Text via http://www.reachofresonance.com/

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Digital cameras with designs inspired by the arthropod eye

May 5, 2013

Scientists have built a digital camera inspired by the compound eyes of insects like bees and flies. The camera’s hemispherical array of 180 microlenses gives it a 160 degree field of view and the ability to focus simultaneously on objects at different depths.

Human eyes, and virtually all cameras, use a single lens to focus light onto a light-sensitive tissue or material. That arrangement can produce high-resolution images, but compound eyes offer different advantages. They can provide a more panoramic view, for example, and remarkable depth perception.

The new artificial version, created by by John Rogers and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and described in Nature, could potentially be developed for use in security cameras or surgical endoscopes.

“The resolution is roughly equivalent to that of a fire ant or a bark beetle,” Rogers wrote in an email to Wired. “With manufacturing systems more like those in industry, and less like the academic, research setups that we are currently using, we feel that it is possible to get to the level of a dragonfly or beyond.”

In an accompanying editorial, Alexander Borst and Johannes Plett of the Max-Planck-Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried, Germany suggest the cameras could also provide visual capabilities for tiny aircraft called micro aerial vehicles. “One major application is disaster relief,” they wrote. “Picture the following: a palm-sized MAV uses an artificial faceted eye to navigate autonomously through a collapsed building while other sensors on board scan the environment for smoke, radioactivity or even people trapped beneath rubble and debris.”

Presumably the engineers who build these future rescue MAVs will come up with a way to make sure the people they’re trying to help don’t mistake them for flies and swat them down.

Text and Images via WIRED and Nature


Representative imaging results for four different line art images captured with a hemispherical, apposition compound eye camera and rendered on a hemispherical surface that matches the shape of the device.

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Microcosmos (Available Online)

March 8, 2013



“Utilizing special macroscopic photographic techniques, filmmakers Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou created this fascinating and visually spectacular look at the hidden worlds in the life cycle of an ordinary meadow in France. When seen through the lens of Nuridsany and Perennou’s cameras, insects become gigantic beasts, blades of grass turn into towering monuments, and raindrops form puddles that resemble vast oceans.”

Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

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The Original Colonists: ‘The Social Conquest of Earth,’ by Edward O. Wilson

May 12, 2012

This is not a humble book. Edward O. Wilson wants to answer the questions Paul Gauguin used as the title of one of his most famous paintings: “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” At the start, Wilson notes that religion is no help at all — “mythmaking could never discover the origin and meaning of humanity” — and contemporary philosophy is also irrelevant, having “long ago abandoned the foundational questions about human existence.” The proper approach to answering these deep questions is the application of the methods of science, including archaeology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology. Also, we should study insects.

Insects? Wilson, now 82 and an emeritus professor in the department of organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard, has long been a leading scholar on ants, having won one of his two Pulitzer Prizes for the 1990 book on the topic that he wrote with Bert Hölldobler. But he is better known for his work on humans. His “Sociobiology: The New Synthesis,” a landmark attempt to use evolutionary theory to explain human behavior, was published in 1975. Those were strange times, and Wilson was smeared as a racist and fascist, attacked by some of his Harvard colleagues and doused with water at the podium of a major scientific conference. But Wilson’s days as a pariah are long over. An evolutionary approach to psychology is now mainstream, and Wilson is broadly respected for his scientific accomplishments, his environmental activism, and the scope and productivity of his work, which includes an autobiography and a best-selling novel, ­“Anthill.”

In “The Social Conquest of Earth,” he explores the strange kinship between humans and some insects. Wilson calculates that one can stack up log-style all humans alive today into a cube that’s about a mile on each side, easily hidden in the Grand Canyon. And all the ants on earth would fit into a cube of similar size. More important, humans and certain insects are the planet’s ­“eusocial” species — the only species that form communities that contain multiple generations and where, as part of a division of labor, community members sometimes perform altruistic acts for the benefit of others.

Excerpt from an article written by PAUL BLOOM, NYT. Continue HERE
Image above: Edward O. Wilson holds a jar of ant specimens from a dig in Puerto Rico.

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Tiny animals solve problems of housing and maintaining oversized brains, shedding new light on nervous-system evolution

April 17, 2012

A basic fact of life is that the size of an animal’s brain depends to some extent on its body size. A long history of studies of vertebrate animals has demonstrated that the relationship between brain and body mass follows a power-law function. Smaller individuals have relatively larger brains for their body sizes. This scaling relationship was popularized as Haller’s Rule by German evolutionary biologist Bernhard Rensch in 1948, in honor of Albrecht von Haller, who first noticed the relationship nearly 250 years ago. Little has been known, however, about relative brain size for invertebrates such as insects, spiders and nematodes, even though they are among Earth’s more diverse and abundant animal groups. But a recent wave of studies of invertebrates confirms that Haller’s Rule applies to them as well, and that it extends to much smaller body sizes than previously thought.

These tiny animals have been able to substantially shift their allometric lines—that is, the relationship between their brain size and their overall body size—from those of vertebrates and other invertebrates. Animals that follow a given allometric line belong to the same grade and changes from one grade to another are known as grade shifts. The result is that different taxonomic groups have different, variant, versions of Haller’s Rule.

Excerpt from a paper by William G. Eberhard, William T. Wcislo, American Scientist. Continue HERE

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Designer choreographs ant ballet at the Pestival

March 30, 2012

Produced by Ollie Palmer, the Ant Ballet is a 2-year investigation into the parallels between human and ant communication which culminated in the world’s first ballet to exclusively feature ants. It is currently in Phase I of IV.

Using synthesized pheromones (Z9:16Ald Hexadecanol) and highly invasive Linepthinema humile Argentine ants, a robotic arm lays pheromone powder trails that cause the ants to behave in a different way to their usual foraging. Performances in late 2012 will feature mass colony movement testing, and the first intercontinental ant ballet.

The machine is part of a larger study of paranoia, control systems, insects and architecture.

The Ant Ballet will be installed in ZSL London Zoo’s BUGS zone with simulated ants until June 2012, and at FutureEverything festival in Manchester from the 16th – 19th May. The first live Ant Ballet performance will take place as part of Pestival in Sao Paulo later in the year.



Pestival aims to initiate a cultural shift in the way people think, moving them towards a more integrated way of looking at the natural world. Pestival’s lasting legacy is to forge new working relationships between disciplines, communities and species. Pestival says “Insectes Sans Frontières”.

Pestival believes insects are critical to human life on Earth. With over a million insect species, they are the most diverse group of animals on Earth. And yet insects are frequently misunderstood, reviled or, at best, ignored by the majority of the human population.

Pestival has set out to challenge existing stereotypes about insects and to give them their rightful place, for good and bad (vectors and pollinators), in our collective cultural consciousness.

Via WIRED