« December 5, 2019 | Main | December 7, 2019 »

December 6, 2019

Honeybees surf to safety on waves they create

Videre est credere.

From the New York Times:

If their honey-making and pollination prowess weren’t enough, there's a new reason to appreciate honeybees: They're world-class surfers.

Beyond pollinating flowers, worker bees — which are all females — are given the job of searching for water to cool their hives.

But if they fall into ponds, their wings get wet and can't be used to fly.

A team of researchers at the California Institute of Technology found that when bees drop into bodies of water, they can use their wings to generate ripples and glide toward land — like surfers who create and then ride their own waves.

Gnarly, right?

"When they fall in the water, they have to find a way to get to shore as a matter of survival," said Chris Roh, a Caltech research engineer and lead author of the study, published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

As with many scientific advances — Isaac Newton's apple or Benjamin Franklin's lightning bolt — Dr. Roh’s experiment began with a walk.

Passing Caltech's Millikan Pond in 2016, he observed a bee on the water's surface generating waves.

He wondered how an insect known for flight could propel through water.

Dr. Roh and his co-author Morteza Gharib, a Caltech professor of aeronautics and bio-inspired engineering, used butterfly nets to collect local Pasadena honeybees and observe their surf-like movements.

The researchers fashioned a wire harness [below]

Screen Shot 2019-12-01 at 5.17.48 PM

to constrain each bee's bodily motion, allowing close examination of their wings.

They found that the bee bends its wing at a 30° angle, pulling up water and generating a forward thrust.

Bees get trapped on the surface because water is roughly three orders of magnitude denser than air.

But that weight helps to propel the bee forward when its wings flap.

It's a strenuous exercise for the bees, which the researchers estimate could handle about 10 minutes of the activity.

The researchers said the surf-like motion hasn't been documented in other insects and most semiaquatic insects use their legs for propulsion, what's known as water-walking.

It may have evolved in bees, they speculate, so the workers could collect fluid without getting stuck in the water and dying.

The closest motion is seen in stoneflies, but their movement is more like paddling than surfing.

Dr. Roh and Dr. Gharib plan to use their observations to design robots capable of traversing sky and sea.

They have already made a mechanical model that simulates the bee's surfing motion.

Next, they will make one light enough to fly.

Howard Stone, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton, said nature is a helpful guide for technological innovation because "evolution has had lots of years to try out solutions" to common physical problems.

Dr. Gharib's lab has previously studied underwater locomotion by looking at jellyfish, and energy harvesting by looking at leaves rustling in the wind.

He envisions numerous practical applications for bee surfing.

"You could imagine an amphibious system that can move on the surface of water and fly without hassle," Dr. Gharib said. "This could be useful for search and rescues, or for getting samples of the surface of the ocean, if you can't send a boat or helicopter."

Here's the abstract of the original scientific paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

December 6, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Great Pyramid at Giza — then and now

Screen Shot 2019-11-20 at 3.55.11 PM

4,579 years have a way of changing things.

Above, an artist's reconstruction of how the structure looked when it was finished in 2560 BCE.

It was originally 481 feet tall, with each base side measuring 756 feet.

A smooth layer of fine white limestone covered the surface, all cut to the same angle and polished to a shine so bright it almost glowed.

The structure was capped with a pyramidion, a capstone made of solid granite and covered with gold.

Below, what you'll see if you visit today: rough limestone blocks, each weighing 2.5-15 tons, colored a dark sandy brown from thousands of years of weathering and pollution.

With erosion and absent its pyramidion, its present height is 455 feet.

Screen Shot 2019-11-20 at 3.55.06 PM

Sic transit gloria mundi.


a Smithsonian Channel video about the structure.

December 6, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Dormeshia gives a tap lesson

Her current show at the Joyce Theater in New York City, "And Still You Must Swing," has garnered rave reviews.

Better hustle if you want to see it: it only runs through this coming Sunday, December 8.

Screen Shot 2019-12-06 at 11.00.12 AM

December 6, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

AirPods Pro noise cancellation fo shizzle

Screen Shot 2019-11-26 at 11.26.30 AM

I received my AirPods Pro on Wednesday, October 30, having ordered them two hours after they were announced by Apple on Monday, October 28.

Music while I'm running — why I got them — sounds great, but I'm getting far more enjoyment and benefit from their noise cancellation function.

I run up to 4-5 times/week, ±50 minutes or so at a crack, so roughly 3-4 hours.

I estimate I use them inside my house 5-10x as much.

Most serendipitously for the past three weeks, as my new neighbor has had tree peeps take down around seventy (70) mature hardwood trees — each 70-100 feet tall — blocking the sun from entering her house.

The trees were about 200-400 feet from my house, and the NOISE from the saws/stump pulling machines/excavating machines/wood chippers etc. has been constant and LOUD from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. daily.

With AirPods Pro in place, like right now: dead silence. 

Almost magical, and well worth the price even if that's all they did.

For those in cubicles or open offices or other noisy environments, these devices could be transformative.

December 6, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Flower Colored Pencils

Screen Shot 2019-12-02 at 5.12.26 PM

From the website:

A set of 5 pencils shaped and colored like 5 of Japan's traditional flowers and leaves.

When sharpened, the shavings mimic the flower petals.

The adorable cross sections — bellflower, evergreen, dandelion, plum and cherry — also make them easy to grip.

Screen Shot 2019-12-02 at 5.12.42 PM

Made at an environmentally-conscious factory in Japan, the pencils are manufactured with a process that eliminates resource waste.

The exterior that forms the shape of the flower is made from recycled paper, which also makes them soft and easy to sharpen.

A high quality color core completes the pencil.

Screen Shot 2019-12-02 at 5.12.19 PM

Features and Details:

• Materials: Recycled paper, polypropylene, pigment, wax

• Designed by Toshihiro Otomo

• Sharpener included

• Made in Japan

Screen Shot 2019-12-02 at 5.12.31 PM


December 6, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

« December 5, 2019 | Main | December 7, 2019 »