Search results for: spiders
Nature comes up with the best solutions to life’s little problems, doesn’t it? And this story is further proof of that. Caterpillars are rightfully scared of spiders, but they have a much better way of dealing with it than I do. I’ve been known to throw heavy objects across the room when I spy an eight-legged intruder, or to try and douse it with toxic chemicals. More often than not, I just leave the spider clearing to someone much braver than I. The tobacco hornworm caterpillar, however, has a better strategy. They like to munch on tobacco plants, and it turns out that they have a gene that enables them to slide that nicotine in their bellies up to their breath. You know, the way garlic and Indian food do. Just as those smells might repel someone of the opposite sex, they also repel wolf spiders, that prey on tobacco hornworm caterpillars.
The genius of this system can’t be overstated. Nicotine breath is nasty. I learned this by having a mother who smokes. My brother and I used to hide her cigarettes and incur her wrath, but we did it out of love. And because she smelled terrible when she smoked—hands, hair, breath, everything. Now I have to wonder whether she was trying to keep the spiders away, or even whether she was trying to get some time to herself. Either way, this is the first time I’ve found myself having something in common with a spider.
Back in September, GFR reported on some mysterious structures found in the remote Peruvian rainforest. A graduate student staying at the Tambopata Research Center found the structures and posted them on Reddit, where scientists and laypeople alike offered various theories about what made them. When no one could come up with any definitive answers, entomologists headed down to solve the mystery once and for all. And the good ol’ reporters at Wired followed them. It took some doing, but we finally have an answer: spiders. Yay?
We know that NASA has been talking about taking 3D printing into space for a little while now, and I’ll admit that my limited mental scope only thought they’d be sending a few manufactured 3D printers up there to work on things in the International Space Station, but boy was I off. They’re currently getting involved with the Washington-based aerospace company Tethers Unlimited, Inc. (TUI) to work on a much grander project they’re calling SpiderFab, which will be an arachnid-like bot that will be capable of building massive spacecraft while orbiting Earth. Sounds pretty awesome, right? I can already see businesses getting involved so that giant floating billboards will be circling the Earth in 10 years. But this collaboration has more sincere goals.
NASA chose TUI as the winner of the Innovative Advanced Concepts Program, awarding them a $500,000 contract, which will go a long way toward getting this unique concept into space. Simply put, there’s a multi-limbed robotic spider creature that is capable of 3D printing structures on the go, such as antennas, and it can make them much larger than anything that can comfortably be rocketed into space fully constructed. Since the main components consist of the spider and the polymers needed for building, as well as the program to tell the spider what to do, of course, this makes for a far smaller payload than sending already built parts. Conservation is key when you’re burning thousands of pounds of fuel to get a successful launch. TUI’s CEO and Chief Scientist Dr. Rob Hoyt can of course explain things better than I can:
Last year Naughty Dog followed up its hit Uncharted series by giving players a new twist on the tired old “zombie apocalypse” with The Last of Us. In the critically acclaimed game it wasn’t the living dead who were staggering around trying to eat the unlucky survivors; it was victims infected by a mutated strain of a very real fungus. In The Last of Us, that fungus has spread to humans, unleashing a breed of zombie that’s every bit as terrifying as the traditional undead. Now the game’s unsettling visuals have infected an art show tribute to Naughty Dog. (The top image is “Nature, Human” by Anthony Wu.)
Based on my 10 seconds of serious pondering and research, I don’t think the Doctor has been back to the Moon since the 2007 episode “Smith and Jones,” which introduced Martha Jones and had the Doctor dealing with an entire bloody hospital that had been relocated to the lunar surface. Sure, the moon played a major role in “Day of the Moon” — and gave us one of Matt Smith’s finest moments as the Doctor — but as far as I can recall, our very favorite Time Lord hasn’t actually been back to the moon since he still looked like David Tennant. That’s about to change this week in an episode entitled “Kill the Moon.” If that title didn’t tip you off, The Doctor’s going to run into some trouble up there. And it’s looking a bit…spider-y.