We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Thursday, March 7. 2013
The documentary did, in one way, set itself apart from your usual documentary fare.
Here's what the narrator says at the beginning:
Those are the last words spoken for over an hour.
Herewith I present ten of its more magical moments.
That Damned Interdimensional Barrier
At least, if you're a bug.
Here are four scenes dealing with that dreaded interdimensional barrier — at least, if you're a bug — known as adhesion or surface tension. In the first one, while it probably just looks that way, it appears the ant is having trouble penetrating the bead of water. Yet, in the next scene, the ants are lappin' away around the ol' water hole like a herd of buffaloes.
That brings us to the third part and one of everybody's favorite critters, the water skeeter. Now here's an animal that knows how to use adhesion to its advantage.
But the fourth scene poses something of a question. If the water skeeter is using adhesion to its advantage, what are these guys using? Reverse adhesion?
The spider in this clip lives under water and carries its oxygen supply on its back. This is pretty clever when you think about it, until you stop to think about it. At that point, the whole situation raises a few evolutionary questions.
A. All sea mammals (dolphins, porpoises, manatees, whales, etc) started off as land creatures, yet although 99% of all land creatures think that living on the land is just fine, thank you, fine, one small branch decided that the sea was (1) safer, with (2) more food, and that's the direction they headed.
B. Similarly, 99% of all land bugs seem to think that living on the land is just fine, thank you, fine, yet, again, there's one tiny band of renegades who headed for wetter pastures.
The question is, if living in the water actually is superior to living on land, why haven't more animals gone that route? And, if it's not, then why haven't those who have given it a try come back?
For something every land creature takes to be as common as breath, look what this dude has to go through just to sit down and enjoy a snack.
Come back to land, little friend, come back!
Invention Of The Traffic Jam
It took me about twenty minutes to travel a mile through town the other day. They had closed off one of the lanes to do some construction work so it was the usual merging nightmare.
The local news station had a chopper overhead filming what the congestion looked like down below.
The only thing missing are the honking horns.
Did you happen to notice anything odd about the opening shot of the cracking earth? Without even thinking about it, we assume it's time-lapse photography, probably over a number of days. It kinda has to be. Cracks widening in earth simply don't move anywhere near that fast except in event of earthquake.
Now watch it again and look at the shadows of the plants, and the amount of light the ground is getting. While the plant moves a tad unnaturally, indicating the film is sped up, the shadows don't appear to move an inch, nor does the amount of ambient light change a flicker, both indicating that this happened in a relatively short period of time, maybe an hour. If so, then, purely from a geological standpoint, that's pretty amazing.
The Sisyphus of the Bug World
While there are lots of 'great shots' in the documentary, there was one moment that was truly precious for its timeliness.
The poor li'l feller never knew what hit him.
Bees pick up pollen from plants on the hairs of their legs while doing their honey thing. Then — if chance favors — they deposit it on other plants when they land, pollinating them, thereby promoting the continuation of both the plants and the bees' source of food; the quintessential example of a symbiotic relationship.
But what if the plant suddenly decides this whole 'leaving it to chance' thing is bullshit?
What if it wants to take an active hand in the matter?
I'd never thought about how worms propel themselves before. Offhand, I would have guessed it would be something similar to snakes; some kind of 'writhing' motion. That's what they do when above ground. But then you think it through and realize that method wouldn't work if you're chomping your way through the earth for the first time, since there wouldn't be any 'elbow room' in which to writhe.
In the first clip, we'll see how Mother Nature solved this little poser: contraction and expansion.
In the second, we'll see what happens when a worm finally realizes that it doesn't like hanging around in the slime and muck all day long and decides to take action. Note how it still has the vestigial 'rings', which are unnecessary at this point, and how this is something of a case of 'nature run amok', in that, rather than spouting four or six or eight good, solid legs when the evolutionary command "grow legs" was given, every independent, disjointed ring grew its own.
We all know that some plants trap and eat bugs, like the famous Venus Fly Trap. Its jaws slowly close on the unwary victim and the poor li'l guy is left bewildered and confused. The plant waits him out and eventually he runs out of gas and dies. The plant then absorbs the decaying remains into its system.
As grisly as this is, at least the bug never knew of his terrible fate. So there's some comfort in that.
But then there's being stickied to death.
The Great Horned Beetle!
Be pretty awesome, eh? In a world of soft, squishy insects, you've got a friggin' horn! You'd just badass yourself from one side of town to the other.
Except there's a problem.
Unfortunately, your cool horn has a design flaw.
Question: Of the great horned beasts of the world, what is it about all their horns that's similar?
They're all pointing forward, ready to attack or defend. That is, to actually be effective.
And then there's this guy. It just seems odd, is all. After all the hype and build-up, why is it pointing backwards??
Finally! You knew it was coming.
The final showdown.
Yep, a battle to the death featuring two monstrously fierce warriors, each armed to the teeth and lookin' for blood.
There's only one eensy little problem.
The huge pincers they have look like they possess the insect equivalent of One Kitten Power, and against their fully-armored bodies this is probably the least effective fight in bugdom history. There are a couple of places where one of them clearly has a 'death grip' on the other, like around its neck, but with one twist of the body it's free of its opponent's One Kitten Power pincers.
I love the very end, though, after they take the big fall and have the breath knocked out of them. The first one gets up, kicks the other one like "Yeah, take that!" and stomps off. The second one then gets up with the perfect insect version of a "WTF?" moment.
That little crawly bug with the round shell-like exterior they cut to twice raises an interesting question all on its own.
Okay, so you're upside-down. You curl up in your circular shell. In the second shot, the shell has rolled a tad, then re-opened. Problem solved.
But how do you move around enough inside the shell to actually cause it to roll over rough terrain when you're attached to the shell?
And Then There's The Majesty Of It All
I have a wonderful collection of beautiful bugs here. Some insects are truly majestic.
I'd put this guy in that class.
With wings, no less.
I might also add that I still need some medical help. Story is here. I felt pretty good yesterday, hence my knocking out the above piece, but it was the exception.
My full page of video essays is here.
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
this is slightly off topic, but since you mentioned bugs. Prof. Scott Bug is host of the documentary series Marvels of the Science which is worth a look.
Another exceptional post, Doc. The clip where the plant polinated the bee -- rather than the other way around -- was a new one on me. All in all, great photography. Went right on the Netflix queue, and thanks.
I agree, that was just marvelous. As a girl, I'm not supposed to like icky, slimy bugs, but I've always found them fascinating. Like KJW, this went right into my Netflix queue.
Glad y'all liked. Yeah, ant lions are pretty cool, but no shots of them. About the only 'fierce' scene was the Battle Royale that I included. I'm still sweating over the sheer ferocity the two bugs displayed.
Ugh - a sailfish does not have a horn - it has a bill. That is why it is call a billfish.
It's a spearfish, thank you, and spears are the aquatic version of 'horn'. I said "beasts", not "mammals".
But thanks for playing, just the same.
Apart from that, I hope you enjoyed the article.
No no no - see the following. :>)
And for the record? A spearfish is a type of marlin (long bill and short bill) - marlins are BILLFISH.
And technically a giraffe does not have a "horn" as such although it is often referred to as a "horn". Giraffes have ossicones which is ossified cartilage.
A horn is skin a covering of keratin and other proteins surrounding a core of live bone. Deers don't have horns, technically a rhinoceros doesn't have a "horn" as there isn't live bone under the keratin.
Horns are limited to ruminants.
Aren't you glad you asked?
"Horns are limited to ruminants.
Aren't you glad you asked?"
Well, now I am. Of course, in the article I was speaking generically, simply because 'big pointy thing' didn't seem very polished.
I knew you'd understand. :)
Big pointy thing would have worked for me.
I'm easy that way. :>)
Well, in this case, I think the majority of scientists are on my side. "Great Big Pointy Thing Beetle" just doesn't seem as awesome.
Really nice movie. I used it to put my grandchildren to sleep on the sofa when they were little.....so cozy and sleepy it was.
I forgot to mention that I really enjoyed the films too. I'd seen them before, but some were good to see again.
Although I'm still having trouble with the videos - at least I'm back to the run for a little while, stall, run for a while, stall.
It's not as bad as it once was though.
Well, we did those experiments a while back and seemed to have worked out the bug by upgrading to the newer version, but that was playing files on its own site. Playing files (on my site) from this site is different. I'll investigate it, though, and see about getting an updated 'remote' version.
The other morning i caught a snail trying to give a small copy of Whitman's Leaves of Grass to my scotch tape dispenser
That must have taken a lot of work to assemble. Well done. Thanks.
Which reminds me: Entomologists bug the hell out of me.