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Monday, July 9, 2018

On flying spiders:

Spiders have no wings, but they can take to the air nonetheless. They’ll climb to an exposed point, raise their abdomens to the sky, extrude strands of silk, and float away. This behavior is called ballooning. It might carry spiders away from predators and competitors, or toward new lands with abundant resources. But whatever the reason for it, it’s clearly an effective means of travel. Spiders have been found two-and-a-half miles up in the air, and 1,000 miles out to sea.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Fascinating article on parasitic wasps:

Forbes studies parasitoid wasps. These creatures use their stingers to lay eggs in (or on) the bodies of insects and other hosts. The grubs, upon hatching, devour their hosts alive, sometimes commandeering their minds and changing their behavior, and sometimes bursting out of their desiccated carcasses. There’s a wasp that takes cockroaches for walks after turning them into docile zombies, a wasp that forces spiders to spin a protective cocoon all while sucking them dry, a wasp that turns caterpillars into half-dead, head-banging bodyguards, a wasp that conscripts ladybirds into acting as babysitters.

(Cue the old National Geographic video. Parasitic wasps are creepy.)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Processing bulk natural wood into a high-performance structural material:

Wood is among the oldest materials used by humans, and is still commonly used for building. Its low density has also made it useful for transport applications such as shipbuilding, but this property is associated with a relatively low strength and stiffness. Scientists have tried to devise processes that make wood denser, to obtain materials suitable for high-strength applications, but with limited success. In a paper in Nature, Song et al. describe a densification method that combines a chemical treatment with high-temperature compression, and which produces an unprecedented increase in stiffness and strength.

Thursday, January 4, 2018