Praying mantises wearing tiny glasses help researchers discover new type of 3D vision

February 12, 2018 by  
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This praying mantis isn’t just wearing minuscule 3D glasses for the cute factor, but to help scientists learn more about 3D vision. A Newcastle University team discovered a novel form of 3D vision, or stereo vision, in the insects – and compared human and insect stereo vision for the very first time. Their findings could have implications for visual processing in robots . Humans aren’t the only creatures with stereo vision, which “helps us work out the distances to the things we see,” according to the university . Cats, horses, monkeys, toads, and owls have it too – but the only insect we know about with 3D vision is the praying mantis. Six Newcastle University researchers obtained new insight into their robust stereo vision with the help of small 3D glasses temporarily attached to the insects with beeswax. Related: Praying mantises hunt down and eat small birds, including hummingbirds The researchers designed an insect 3D cinema, showing a praying mantis a film of prey. The insects would actually try to catch the prey because the illusion was so convincing. And the scientists were able to take their work to the next level, showing the mantises “complex dot-patterns used to investigate human 3D vision” so they could compare our 3D vision with an insect’s for the first time. According to the university, humans see 3D in still images by matching details of the image each eye sees. “But mantises only attack moving prey so their 3D doesn’t need to work in still images. The team found mantises don’t bother about the details of the picture but just look for places where the picture is changing…Even if the scientists made the two eyes’ images completely different, mantises can still match up the places where things are changing. They did so even when humans couldn’t.” The journal Current Biology published their work online last week . Lead author Vivek Nityananda, a behavioral ecologist, described the praying mantis’ stereo vision as “a completely new form of 3D vision.” Future robots could benefit from these findings: instead of 3D vision based on complex human stereo vision, researchers might be able to take some tips from praying mantis stereo vision, which team member Ghaith Tarawneh said probably doesn’t require a lot of computer processing since insect brains are so small. + Newcastle University + Current Biology Images via Newcastle University, UK/Phys.org

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Praying mantises wearing tiny glasses help researchers discover new type of 3D vision

San Francisco man singlehandedly revived a rare butterfly species in his own backyard

July 22, 2016 by  
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The California Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies used to flutter about San Francisco aplenty, but their populations declined in the 20th century as more areas were developed. Now in the early 21st century, they’re incredibly rare in the city, so one resident decided to do something. California Academy of Sciences aquatic biologist Tim Wong built a butterfly home in his own backyard , and around three years later is seeing the colorful blue butterflies slowly return. Described as ” the butterfly whisperer ,” Wong spends his free time working to bring back the butterflies. He discovered when the California Pipevine Swallowtail is a caterpillar, it only eats the California pipevine plant. But those plants were also rare in San Francisco. Wong finally found the plant at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens, and they let him take some clippings home. From there, Wong built a “large screen enclosure” that would allow the butterflies to mate in natural conditions and allow him to observe precisely what they needed in an “ideal host plant.” Related: Monarch butterfly populations are multiplying Wong started out with 20 caterpillars. Now around three years later, his butterfly home is thriving. He raises the caterpillars and then takes them to the San Francisco Botanical Gardens, and last year brought “thousands” to the botanical gardens. He’s now grown over 200 California pipevine plants. Wong told Vox, “We’ve seen more butterflies surviving in the garden, flying around, laying eggs, successfully pupating, and emerge the following year. That’s a good sign that our efforts are working!” While you may not be able to build a butterfly home in your backyard, there are still actions you can take to help butterflies. Wong said, “Improving habitat for native fauna is something anyone can do. Conservation and stewardship can start in your very own backyard.” You can plant native plants and weed to allow butterflies to obtain food easier, and you can also stop using pesticides. Via Vox Images via Wikimedia Commons and Tim Wong’s Facebook

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San Francisco man singlehandedly revived a rare butterfly species in his own backyard

Facebook’s solar-powered drone beams internet in flight for the first time

July 22, 2016 by  
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The long-awaited first flight of Facebook’s solar-powered, internet-beaming drone went off without a hitch just a few weeks ago. Yesterday, the social media giant finally shared video footage of Aquila’s first flight, which took place on June 28. The flight lasted 96 minutes and came just one month after the plane’s initial test flights, as Facebook scrambles to make up some of the lost time the project has suffered due to multiple delays. CEO Mark Zuckerberg attended the flight, watching from the ground as the solar-powered airplane took off before dawn near Yuma, Arizona. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOez_Hk80TI Facebook (and more specifically the Facebook Connectivity Lab) has been teasing the tech world for nearly two years with its plans for a solar-powered unmanned airplane (or simply, a drone) that could someday beam internet service. The vision is for a slew of these high-tech drones to fly simultaneously, all beaming down internet signal to create a worldwide network of free access. Although Facebook’s engineers have been hard at work on the drone technology, the company isn’t taking on the data service portion of the dream just yet. The California-based company will instead look to a partner to provide the network service, just as soon as they find a suitable match. Related: Facebook unveils solar-powered Aquila plane that will beam internet to remote locations Zuckerberg posted about the plane’s technology on Facebook this morning, revealing his optimism for the project’s future. “Our original mission was to fly Aquila for 30 minutes, but things went so well that we decided to keep the plane up for 96 minutes,” he wrote. “We gathered lots of data about our models and the aircraft structure—and after two years of development, it was emotional to see Aquila actually get off the ground.” Aquila’s wingspan is wider than that of a Boeing 737, but the plane is ultra lightweight for its size, coming in under 1,000 lbs. Each plane is designed to circle in a 60-mile radius, consuming only 5,000 watts of electricity (the equivalent of running three hair dryers). The solar-powered drones will fly at 60,000 feet, which is above the clouds, ensuring that they can harvest enough solar energy to power the plane through the day and night. In fact, the end goal is to fly the drones for months at a time, so continuous access to the sun’s rays is key. Test flights were originally planned for summer 2015 , but the technology wasn’t ready, so the timeline was delayed. More information about the project’s technical challenges and next steps is available in this post by Facebook’s engineering team. Via Recode Images via Facebook

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Facebook’s solar-powered drone beams internet in flight for the first time

Katharina Unger’s Farm 432 Breeds Edible Bugs at Home

July 26, 2013 by  
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Read the rest of Katharina Unger’s Farm 432 Breeds Edible Bugs at Home Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: alternative protein , eco design , Farm 432 , green design , insect eating , Katharina unger , raising larvae , sustainable design        

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Katharina Unger’s Farm 432 Breeds Edible Bugs at Home

Another Reason to Curb Light Pollution: For the Bugs

June 13, 2011 by  
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Photo by Klim Levene We’ve extolled the virtues of dark skies here before, most recently with an International Dark Sky Park designated for Michigan . It turns out less light pollution is good not only for the human soul, but for our insect friends

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Another Reason to Curb Light Pollution: For the Bugs

7 Carnivorous Wonders of the Plant World

April 11, 2011 by  
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[ By Steph in 7 Wonders Series & Animals & Habitats & Nature & Ecosystems . ] Death traps that seduce insects, frogs and even mice with juicy-looking flesh and sweet nectar and then melt their bodies with acids, carnivorous plants are deceptively beautiful and totally fascinating to watch.

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7 Carnivorous Wonders of the Plant World

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