What happens inside a pupa stays inside a pupa. Or it used to, anyway. Until recently, when special x-ray imagers were turned on a developing butterfly to elucidate its metamorphosis.
the process of caterpillar-to-butterfly is a messy one. An overfed worm not only has to convert a lot of the stored energy it gathered stuffing its face for a few weeks into new body parts, it does so by essentially dissolving much of its body and reforming. The pupa isn’t so much a dressing room for a beautiful diva as it is a bag to keep all the goopy globs of proto-butterfly from dripping on the ground. Sounds like both butterfly and human puberty involve a mess of bodily fluids and hiding in your room.
That’s what most biology books would have you believe anyway. This new work (written up in great detail by Ed Yong) demonstrates that while there’s still plenty of goop-globbing, quite a few structures remain intact, migrating and growing into adult forms in a more traditional way (like those blue circulation vessels). For the insect nerds in the bunch, this technique doesn’t revolutionize metamorphosis or anything, but it’s a view inside that most of us have never gotten.
And quite a view it is.
17 year Cicada emergence GIF, because I had to see it animate.
The Brood II 17-year cicadas are up and poppin’ along the east coast of the US, according to WNYC’s citizen-science Cicada Tracker map.
Want to know more about these rarely seen prime number nomads? Your humble blogger talked to New Hampshire Public Radio about cicada science. Give it a listen, they say my voice is soothing*
*No one has actually said that yet.
Home Movies From A Place That Didn’t Exist: A Human Look At Life Before The Bomb
(I’ve posted this previously, but the video has been updated with even more footage from the Manhattan Project, and I wanted to bring it to everyone’s attention!)
What if the fate of the free world was depending on you, and they didn’t even know it? How would you deal with that weight?
According to this video time capsule recently unearthed at Los Alamos National Labs, you’d relax by skiing, swimming, hiking and drinking cold Coors beer. In other words, you’d act human.
Hugh Bradner, a physicist working on the Manhattan Project’s weapons testing program Project Y (and who later invented the neoprene wetsuit!), was given informal permission from the U.S. Army to shoot this collection of home movies. The hour of footage that exists was spliced down to 10 minutes for this video, and it represents our only look at what life was like for these physicists and staff during their quest to harness the atom for war.
We see them enjoying the outdoors, hiking with their adorable dogs, basking in the sun next to cool, clear watering holes (the bathing suits!), enjoying an ice-cold Coors (I like their style!), visiting the pueblos, exploring the mountains from the saddle of a horse, and even the Bradners’ wedding (featuring a cameo by J. Robert Oppenheimer).
I’m struck by how young they are, and how they are striving to enjoy the simple parts of life just as we would. These images are nearly 70 years old, but they show that even though these men and women were about to change the world in ways they couldn’t imagine, they are not so different from us.
It’s a true treasure of science history.
Bonus: Browse the I.D. badge images of Los Alamos Manhattan Project scientists! From Enrico Fermi to a very young Richard Feynman! Notice any other gems?
If you couldn’t see an animal, and only learned what they look like by touch, sound, and a verbal description, what might you imagine? In this clip from the BBC’s Zookeepers, Donna, who has been blind since birth, gets to touch and interact with the elephants at the Paignton Zoo.
So cool! This made me think deeply … or what felt deep to me:
This is like a real-life telling of the “blind men touching the elephant” tale. In that old parable, several blind men are each allowed to touch one part of an elephant and then try to describe what an elephant is. And with only a partial sensory experience to guide any of them, they aren’t able to describe an elephant that any of us would recognize as Loxodonta africana or Elephas maximus.
But this leads us to a question of just what is it to describe an elephant? Those of us with the complete toolbox of senses can call on five dimensions with which to describe an elephant. Although why anyone would try to taste a pachyderm, I can’t imagine. So we paint our five-sensed picture and create the mental imprint of an elephant to match.
But what is an elephant to someone with only four senses? Imagine creating an internal image something like an elephant if you’ve never seen one. And not only have you never seen one, you’ve never seen anything. Not even the color gray. And that’s where our shared experience breaks down.
You can’t think of an elephant without picturing an elephant. It’s not just that we have access to an input that the blind-from-birth don’t have. They just don’t have the perception. It leads you to questions like “Whose elephant is more representative of an actual elephant?” and “Is my elephant the same as her elephant?” and other deep questions that get philosophers all tingly in their tweed.
I think it’s a socially enlightening point of view to remember that the blind see the world the same way that we see out of our elbow. By trying (and inevitably failing) to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who has ears for feet, or some other such empathic non sequitur, we can start to appreciate the multitude of perspectives that exist on Earth about a great many things. That’s always a Good Thing™.
And for what it’s worth, the elephant doesn’t care a lick about any of this. Which is interesting in its own right.
Well, that all depends on how you look at it …
Ambiguous image illusions seem to simultaneously point out limitations in our visual system (dependence on shapes, edges and previous experiences in interpreting what’s in our visual field) as well as its flexibility (because in the end, most of us can see both shapes).
Think about that while you explore the young lady/old lady, rabbit/duck and whale/kangaroo illusions above.
I wonder how these work for people who experience “face blindness”, the inability to recognize and identify faces. Radiolab explored that condition previously.
Math + 80s glamrock = Angle Dance. The rock group “Plane Geometry” singsplains angles in this clip from Children’s Television Workshop’s Square One Television, a show dedicated to teaching math. It ran from 1987 to 1992 (if that timeframe wasn’t already very, very clear from the video).
There’s more math in the archives.
I’ll just leave this here.
Math would be more fun to learn if we had more Glam/New Wave lessons … just sayin.
We never sit here under the weight of all this air, the 5 x 10^18 kg of atmosphere that sits above everyone on Earth, and say “Gosh, that sure is heavy!”
You don’t realize just how powerful that 1 bar (~100 kPa) of pressure is until a train car is filled with steam, allowed to cool, and then implodes ohmygod did that just happen?
For more implosion goodness, check out this awesome video from Veritasium.