Archive for 'Arts and Science'

Three simple rules for building a tower, if you are a fire ant

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Ig Nobel Prize winner David Hu and colleagues explain the simple rules that fire ants use when they build a tower-of-fire-ants. They explain in a new study:

Fire Ants Perpetually Rebuild Sinking Towers,” Sulisay Phonekeo, Nathan Mlot, Daria Monaenkova, David L. Hu, Craig Tovey,” Royal Society Open Science, vol. 4, 2017, 170475.

In the aftermath of a flood, fire ants, Solenopsis invicta, cluster into temporary encampments. The encampments can contain hundreds of thousands of ants and reach over 30 ants high. How do ants build such tall structures without being crushed? … Here, we present models of the shape of the tower and its rate of growth. In our past work on raft construction, we found ants followed three rules, which yielded accurate predictions for raft growth rate. These rules are as follows:

1. Do not move if ants are on top of you.

2. If atop other ants, repeatedly move a short distance in a random direction.

3. Upon reaching available space adjacent to non-moving ants, stop and link with them.

4. The top layer of the tower is not stable unless there is a complete innermost ring of ants gripping each other around the rod.

We include the fourth rule based on our observations.

Here’s further detail from the study:

Sarah Zielinski has an especially nice writeup of this writeup, in Science News, with added video.

The 2015 Ig Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to Patricia Yang, David Hu, and Jonathan Pham, Jerome Choo, for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds). They describe that research, in the study “Duration of Urination Does Not Change With Body Size,” Patricia J. Yang, Jonathan Pham, Jerome Choo, and David L. Hu, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 111 no. 33, August 19, 2014, pp. 11932–11937.

Toilet paper papers – a partial resumé

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Whistled languages – like ‘local cellular phones’ (study)

Friday, July 21st, 2017

“Whistled languages are a valuable heritage of human culture.” – explained a 2004 paper : ‘Bioacoustics of human whistled languages: an alternative approach to the cognitive processes of language’ (in : An. Acad. Bras. Ciênc. vol.76 no.2, June 2004).

It was authored by Dr. Julien Meyer of the Laboratoire de Dynamique du Langage (DDL)-CNRS, Institut des Sciences de l’Homme (ISH), Lyon, France, and described a survey about a new multidisciplinary approach :

“Whistled languages can be regarded as a transposition of a given local language into a repertoire of whistles.“

The survey concluded that :

“ . . . whistled languages are products of human intelligence and not just curiosities or ‘surrogates’ in the pejorative sense. They show a widespread distribution across cultures and have obviously developed quite independently of each other, but mostly related to a particular local environment. They are quite clearly defined and represent an original adaptation of the spoken language, like a ‘local cellular phone’ for the needs of isolated human groups.”

Also do not miss : Les langues sifflées – from the Association de recherche Le Monde Siffle (The World Whistles Research Association) – which hosts audio examples from Mexico, Greece, Turkey, and of course the Canaries – home of ‘Le Silbo’ as pictured above.

The Museum of Menstruation

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

If you are, or ever have been, or ever might be involved with human reproduction, you will probably learn interesting things by visiting the Museum of Menstruation.

The museum currently exists online, and is looking for a physical home in or near New York City, a metropolis in which human reproduction is believed to occur with some frequency.

“God is a Porcupine—Brain, Consciousness and Spacetime Physics” [research study]

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Sometimes the title is enough to give a deep understanding of an entire research paper. Here’s an example, a study called “God is a Porcupine—Brain, Consciousness and Spacetime Physics,” by Walter J. Christensen Jr. of California State University Fullerton, published in the Journal of Modern Physics, July 2017.