How termites draw on solar power for climate control

September 22, 2017 by  
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Termite mounds could hold clues to passive climate control , according to new research. Seven scientists scrutinized African termite mounds to see how they keep their homes cool in the sun while maintaining a uniform concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2). Researchers have looked at south Asian termite mounds in the past, but those are often more shaded; they say uncovering the secrets of African termite mounds could lead to energy-efficient building ideas. Termite mounds are impressive not only because the creatures that construct them are so small, but because they naturally maintain a comfortable temperature – no air conditioner necessary. Researchers led by Samuel Ocko, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate student, dug further into climate control in termite mounds, specifically those of the Macrotermes michaelseni termite in Namibia . Their mounds can be around 10 feet high, with millions of workers residing inside. Related: BIOMIMETIC ARCHITECTURE: Green Building in Zimbabwe Modeled After Termite Mounds Ocko and his team measured air velocities and temperatures in the mound over 35 days in Namibia’s autumn and found even though temperatures outside the mound changed by 27 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit, inside temperatures only varied by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. The termites drew on the sun more than wind to achieve climate control. According to IFLScience, convection from the temperature gradient between outside the mounds and their centers drove smooth airflow. During 24 hours, CO2 levels stayed around five percent. The mounds have holes that can be up to 0.2 inches in diameter, which IFLScience said creates an array of tunnels and allows for gas exchange. They said the mounds also lean towards the equator. CO2 levels vary more in Indian mounds during the day, while temperatures remain even. African mounds have large thermal gradients between the center and the sun-facing side. The researchers said in their paper abstract that even though African and Indian mounds differ, they can harness periodic solar heating for ventilation ; they said the system functions like as an external lung. The Journal of Experimental Biology published the research this year. Ocko was joined by scientists at institutions in the United States, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Via IFLScience Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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How termites draw on solar power for climate control

Astronomers observe an object in space unlike anything they’ve seen before

September 22, 2017 by  
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Astronomers recently observed a type of object in space unlike anything we’ve come across before. 288P is a binary asteroid – or two asteroids orbiting one other – that has features similar to a comet , like a long tail and bright coma, or cloud of dust and gas surrounding a comet’s nucleus. It is the first binary asteroid we’ve ever found that can also be classified as a comet. Scientists learned of 288P’s existence in 2011, but they weren’t able to really scrutinize the binary asteroid – it was too far away – until recently when it came a little closer to Earth. Using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope , a group of scientists led by Jessica Agarwal at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany were able to get a better look at the strange system. Related: Astronomers discover that exoplanet WASP-12b is “darker than asphalt” 288P is a main-belt comet as it’s located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter . Each of the two pieces that make up 288P are about 0.6 miles in diameter, and the research institute said they are unusually far apart: they’re orbiting one another at a distance of around 62 miles. The astronomers also observed ongoing activity in 288P. Agarwal said, “We detected strong indications of the sublimation of water ice due to the increased solar heating – similar to how the tail of a comet is created.” 288P has probably been a binary system for just around 5,000 years. And according to Hubble’s website, we’re not likely to find any more objects like 288P for a long time, since finding the binary main-belt comet “included a lot of luck.” The journal Nature published the research online earlier this week. Agarwal was joined by four other researchers from institutions in the United States. Via Hubble Space Telescope and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research Images via ESA/Hubble, L. Calçada and ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser

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Astronomers observe an object in space unlike anything they’ve seen before

The mystery of Namibia’s desert fairy circles may have been solved

January 19, 2017 by  
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The truth is out there… in Namibia .  Inhabitat previously reported on the mysterious “fairy circles” that have appeared without explanation in the Namib Desert for millennia. Over the past several decades, scientists have sought to uncover what exactly is causing this mysterious phenomenon. Although recent theories have centered on local termites, scientists had been unable to determine how exactly these creatures created the fairy circles over such a wide range range. The most recent explanation points to aggressive desert plants that fill ecological gaps left by colonizing termites. The fairy circles appear as patches of barren land between seven and 50 feet in diameter that are defined as circular by a ring of prominent grass growth around the edge. Until recently, this was thought to be a uniquely African phenomenon. However, similar examples have been found in the Pilbara region in Western Australia . According to myths of the local Himba people, the fairy circles were created by Mukuru, their original ancestor, or are footprints of the gods. Some local tour guides also promote the legend that the circles are created by a dragon , whose poisonous breath kills the central vegetation. Related: How one researcher is hoping to tap into the life-saving secrets of fog and dew Ecologists at Princeton University used computer models to test the termite hypothesis, which posits that sand termites eat the roots of low-laying vegetation and allow for more moisture below the surface and barrenness above. In the computer simulations, the mounds only formed where termite colonies of similar size confronted each other and settled on a border. “The termites start with their own mound and go out and forage,” said Princeton researcher Corina Tarnita. “If they find a smaller colony, they simply kill it and expand their own territory. But if they run into a colony that is about the same size, they cannot do that, and end up with a boundary where there’s permanent conflict, but not a full-blown war.” Tarnita’s updated computer model took into account the natural competition that exists between desert plants. While rooted desert plants can initially provide shade and moisture for other plants, they eventually spread, pulling more water for themselves and away from more distant plants. “You find a much smaller scale pattern that’s driven by the plants self-organising in response to water,” Tarnita said. Although the researchers do not claim to have a definitive explanation of the fairy circles, their computer models seem to provide the most likely explanation. “We get a much more complete description of the patterns.” The fairy circles may appear to be supernatural, but their existence is a result of identifiable natural forces. “One of the most striking things about nature is that despite the complexity of all of its interactions and the many processes that act simultaneously, sometimes, and more often than we expected, you find these amazing regularities.” Via the Guardian Images via  Vernon Swanepoel/Flickr   (1)

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The mystery of Namibia’s desert fairy circles may have been solved

The Biomimicry Manual: What Can Super-Organisms Teach Us About Collaboration?

November 20, 2014 by  
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  When I think of monkeys , I don’t think of them living in the desert, namely because primates love trees, water, big juicy leaves, and fruit. In fact, only two primates  have even bothered to go there, and the Hamadryas baboon is the first. With a magnificent white mane, scarlet face, and bizarrely complex social system, he was a sacred muse of the ancient Egyptians; in the afterlife, it fell upon his regal mantle to devour the souls of the dead that were deemed “unrighteous”—serious stuff! The other primate  is us . Both are supreme collaborators, and wherever resources are scarce and unpredictable, the most successful creatures are those who work as a team. That type of collaboration is the skill that we’re going to explore in today’s entry of The Biomimicry Manual! Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Missing Attachment Read the rest of The Biomimicry Manual: What Can Super-Organisms Teach Us About Collaboration? Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: ant pheromone trails , ants , argentine ants , collaboration , complex adaptive networks , Dr. Jamie Brown-Hansen , fireants , Hamadryas Baboon , Homo erectus , homo sapiens , honeybees , invasive species , Janine Benyus , monkeys , mycelial fungi , mycelial fungus , naked mole rats , paul stamets , primates , Robin Sol , super-organisms , SuperOrganizations , termites , The Biomimicry Manual , ultra-social , wasps , what-iferousness , Wood Wide Web , yellowjackets

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The Biomimicry Manual: What Can Super-Organisms Teach Us About Collaboration?

Autonomous “Termite” Robots Work Together to Build with Bricks

February 14, 2014 by  
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Computer scientists at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Science have created a small army of self-controlled robots that follow the same principles as ants or termites to create impressive structures out of foam blocks. The TERMES robots can create towers, pyramids, and other structures out of miniature bricks without any sort of blueprint — even building themselves staircases to reach higher levels. Read the rest of Autonomous “Termite” Robots Work Together to Build with Bricks Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: autonomous robots , construction robots , Disaster Relief , harvard , School of Engineering and Applied Science , self-controlled robots , TERMES project , termite robots , termites        

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Autonomous “Termite” Robots Work Together to Build with Bricks

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