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(Bio) (Phys) Bees and Flight
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2006 8:27 am    Post subject: (Bio) (Phys) Bees and Flight Reply with quote






Scientists Finally Figure Out How Bees Fly
By Sara Goudarzi
Special to LiveScience
posted: 09 January 2005
7:00 am ET

Proponents of intelligent design, which holds that a supreme being rather than evolution is responsible for life's complexities, have long criticized science for not being able to explain some natural phenomena, such as how bees fly.

Now scientists have put this perplexing mystery to rest.

Using a combination of high-speed digital photography and a robotic model of a bee wing, the researchers figured out the flight mechanisms of honeybees.

"For many years, people tried to understand animal flight using the aerodynamics of airplanes and helicopters," said Douglas Altshuler, a researcher at California Institute of Technology. "In the last 10 years, flight biologists have gained a remarkable amount of understanding by shifting to experiments with robots that are capable of flapping wings with the same freedom as the animals."

Exotic flight

The scientists analyzed pictures from hours of filming bees and mimicked the movements using robots with sensors for measuring forces.

Turns out bee flight mechanisms are more exotic than thought.

"The honeybees have a rapid wing beat," Altshuler told LiveScience. "In contrast to the fruit fly that has one eightieth the body size and flaps its wings 200 times each second, the much larger honeybee flaps its wings 230 times every second."

This was a surprise because as insects get smaller, their aerodynamic performance decreases and to compensate, they tend to flap their wings faster.

"And this was just for hovering," Altshuler said of the bees. "They also have to transfer pollen and nectar and carry large loads, sometimes as much as their body mass, for the rest of the colony."

Try this!

In order to understand how bees carry such heavy cargo, the researchers forced the bees to fly in a small chamber filled with a mixture of oxygen and helium that is less dense than regular air. This required the bees to work harder to stay aloft and gave the scientists a chance to observe their compensation mechanisms for the additional toil.

The bees made up for the extra work by stretching out their wing stroke amplitude but did not adjust wingbeat frequency.

"They work like racing cars," Altshuler said. "Racing cars can reach higher revolutions per minute but enable the driver to go faster in higher gear. But like honeybees, they are inefficient."

The work, supervised by Caltech's Michael Dickinson, was reported last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The scientists said the findings could lead to a model for designing aircraft that could hover in place and carry loads for many purposes such as diaster surveillance after earthquakes and tsunamis. They are also pleased that a simple thing like bee flight can no longer be used as an example of science failing to explain a common phenomenon.

Proponents of intelligent design, or ID, have tried in recent years to promote the idea of a supreme being by discounting science because it can't explain everything in nature.

"People in the ID community have said that we don't even know how bees fly," Altshuler said. "We were finally able to put this one to rest. We do have the tools to understand bee flight and we can use science to understand the world around us."

*************************************************************

What are flight and aerodynamics?

http://wings.avkids.com/Book/F.....index.html
http://www.lerc.nasa.gov/WWW/K.....e/bga.html

What is the earth's atmosphere?

http://wings.avkids.com/Book/A.....index.html
http://www.lerc.nasa.gov/WWW/K.....sprop.html

What are the principles of aeronautics?

http://wings.avkids.com/Book/P.....index.html

How do things fly?

http://www.nasm.si.edu/exhibit.....HTF050.HTM

Air Baloons
http://www.boeing.com/companyo.....lored.html
http://www.boeing.com/companyo.....lloon.html

Parachutes
http://wings.avkids.com/Book/V.....es-01.html

Dirigibles
http://wings.avkids.com/Book/V.....ps-01.html

Kites
http://www.boeing.com/companyo...../kite.html
http://wings.avkids.com/Book/V.....es-01.html

Birds
http://www.boeing.com/companyo.....dwing.html
http://wings.avkids.com/Book/A.....ds-01.html

Bats
http://wings.avkids.com/Book/A.....ts-01.html

Dragonflies
http://www.boeing.com/companyo.....ragon.html
http://wings.avkids.com/Book/A.....ts-01.html

Flies
http://journalism.berkeley.edu.....a/fly.html

Prehistoric Fliers
http://wings.avkids.com/Book/A.....nt-01.html

Air Foil
http://www.boeing.com/companyo.....rfoil.html

Propellers
http://www.boeing.com/companyo.....eller.html

Jet Engines
http://www.boeing.com/companyo.....ngine.html

Gliders
http://www.boeing.com/companyo.....itech.html
http://www.boeing.com/companyo.....wtech.html
http://wings.avkids.com/Book/V.....rs-01.html

Helicopters
http://www.boeing.com/companyo...../heli.html

Airplanes
http://www.boeing.com/companyo.....t/737.html
http://www.physlink.com/Educat.....s/ae25.cfm
http://www.okcupid.com/tests/t.....8637930244
http://www.lerc.nasa.gov/WWW/K.....plane.html
http://www.livescience.com/tec.....s_fly.html

Rockets
http://spaceinfo.jaxa.jp/note/.....c01_e.html

Satellites
http://www.boeing.com/companyo.....t/iss.html

Roboflies
http://www.robotbooks.com/spy-fly-robot.htm

A Century of Discovery in Flight

http://www.boeing.com/companyo.....t/cod.html
http://www.aviation-history.co.....heory.html
http://wings.avkids.com/Book/H.....index.html

History of aviation

http://www.aviation-history.com/
http://www.wam.umd.edu/~stwrig.....plane.html
http://www.pbs.org/kcet/chasingthesun/


Videos on how we study the flight of insects (flies)

http://journalism.berkeley.edu.....obofly.ram
http://journalism.berkeley.edu.....forces.mov
http://journalism.berkeley.edu.....lykine.mov

Intermediate reading on flight

http://wings.avkids.com/Book/intermediate.html

Advanced reading on flight

http://wings.avkids.com/Book/advanced.html

*************************************************************

What are bees?

http://www.greensmiths.com/bees.htm
http://www.nature.ca/notebooks/english/bees.htm
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bees/
http://www.everythingabout.net.....ects/bees/
http://www.enchantedlearning.com/themes/bees.shtml
http://library.thinkquest.org/19579/enhanced.html

Carpenter Bees
http://www.uky.edu/Ag/Entomolo...../ef611.htm

Bumblebees
http://hercules.users.netlink.co.uk/Bee.html
http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-.....ts/bombus/

Honeybees
http://www.insecta-inspecta.co.....index.html
http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/insects/ahb/gradek.html
http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/insects/ahb/grade4.html
http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/insects/ahb/grade7.html
http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/insects/ahb/grade9.html
http://www.honey.com/kids/index.html

GAMES

http://www.learn4good.com/game.....rplane.htm
http://www.learn4good.com/game.....lation.htm
http://www.learn4good.com/game.....escape.htm
http://www.learn4good.com/game.....pter_2.htm
http://www.kidsgames.org/airpl.....-game.html
http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forkids/home/
http://www.honey.com/kids/games.html
http://www.playkidsgames.com/alphabetGames.htm

Looking Deeper on Aerodynamics

Fundamentals

Newton's Law of Motion
http://www.lerc.nasa.gov/WWW/K.....ewton.html

Forces, Torque and Motion
http://www.lerc.nasa.gov/WWW/K.....wton2.html

Thermodynamics
http://www.lerc.nasa.gov/WWW/K.....hermo.html

Combustion
http://www.lerc.nasa.gov/WWW/K.....mbst1.html

Basic Fluid Dynamics
http://www.lerc.nasa.gov/WWW/K...../mass.html

Aerodynamic Forces
http://www.lerc.nasa.gov/WWW/K.....irsim.html

Aircraft Weight
http://www.lerc.nasa.gov/WWW/K.....ight1.html


Last edited by adedios on Sat Jan 27, 2007 3:49 pm; edited 3 times in total
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 1:49 pm    Post subject: Pilot Aims for Longest Flight in History Reply with quote

Pilot Aims for Longest Flight in History
By Mike Schneider
Associated Press
posted: 05 February 2006
08:21 pm ET


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP)—Steve Fossett, this era's Phileas Fogg, wants to do something not even the "Around the World in 80 Days'' hero could contemplate: Fly around the globe—and then some—for more than three days without stopping.
His goal is to break a 20-year-old record for longest flight. He plans to travel 27,012 miles in a spindly experimental airplane that helped him break a different record last year.

During his 80 hours in the air, Fossett will take power naps no longer than five minutes each. He'll drink a steady diet of nutritious milkshakes. And he'll relieve himself using "pee bottles'' and a plastic bag.

His flight is tentatively set for dawn on Tuesday. He will take off at a runway used to land space shuttles, head east, circumnavigate the world and continue over the Atlantic Ocean for a second time before landing outside London.

"Except for takeoff and landing, it's a slow pace,'' he said. "That's a good thing. It gives me time to think about every step that I'm making because if I make an error ... it will be devastating to the flight.''

If successful, Fossett's trip would surpass the previous airplane record of 24,987 miles set in 1986 by the Voyager aircraft piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeanna Yeager, as well as the balloon record of 25,361 miles set by the Breitling Orbiter 3 in 1999.

When Fossett actually leaves the ground depends on the weather. Temperature at takeoff must be less than 54 degrees to achieve maximum thrust, and right now the earliest time that criteria will be met is Tuesday.

Fossett already has faced delays unrelated to weather or engineering. The takeoff was pushed back a few days because Chinese authorities were unable to issue the proper overflight permits during the Chinese New Year, and the plane's movement to the Kennedy Space Center last month was delayed because of a mishap that damaged a wing.

Fossett, 61, a former Chicago investment tycoon, has a wellspring of patience. He had failed five times before successfully circumnavigating the globe solo in a balloon in 2002.

This time the aviator plans to use the same plane, the Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer, that he used last March when he became the first person to fly solo nonstop, without refueling, around the globe in 67 hours. As the plane's name suggests, the venture is being financed by Virgin Atlantic Airways founder Richard Branson.

The glider-like aircraft with a 114-foot wing span has two external booms, holding 5,454 pounds of fuel, on either side of the 7-foot-long cockpit, which supports the engine. At takeoff, fuel is expected to account for almost 85 percent of the graphite-made aircraft's weight. Drag parachutes are used to help it descend from its average flying height of about 45,000 feet or slow it down from a top speed of 285 mph.

"When you have an aircraft like that, everything except the cockpit and the engine are basically a part of the fuel tank,'' said Dick Knapinski, a spokesman for the Experimental Aircraft Association in Oshkosh, Wis. "The engine can't be too large because then it would add extra weight, which would need extra fuel, which means you need a bigger airplane. It's a fine line for the person doing the engineering.''

That person is Burt Rutan, who designed the Voyager airplane that his brother, Dick, and Yeager used to set the record almost two decades ago. Two years ago, Burt Rutan won the $10 million Ansari X Prize by rocketing his SpaceShipOne to the edge of space twice in five days, a feat considered a breakthrough for the future of private spaceflight. Rutan has popularized "canard'' designs in which small wings are placed near the nose of the aircraft.

"If there are patron saints out there of current airplane design, Burt would have to be among them,'' Knapinski said.

If Fossett succeeds on this quest, his personal achievement will be significant. But its impact on aviation history will be limited since the era of barrier-breaking aviation records—Charles Lindbergh's New York-to-Paris flight and Wiley Post's around-the-world flight—has long passed, said Bob van der Linden, a curator at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum.

"Being able to stay up there and stay alert, being able to do that is terrific, but it's not going to change the world,'' van der Linden said. "The new barrier, that's spaceflight, because you're pushing the edges of the unknown. Aviation is pretty well-known now.''
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 21, 2006 3:37 pm    Post subject: Scientist Uses Dragonflies To Better Understand Flight Reply with quote

Source: Cornell University

Posted: February 21, 2006

Scientist Uses Dragonflies To Better Understand Flight

If mastering flight is your goal, you can't do better than to emulate a dragonfly.

With four wings instead of the standard two and an unusual pitching stroke that allows the bug to hover and even shift into reverse, the slender, elegant insect is a marvel of engineering.

Z. Jane Wang, professor of theoretical and applied mechanics at Cornell University, presented her research on flying systems and fluid dynamics today (Feb. 19) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In a seminar "Falling Paper, Dragonfly Flight and Making a Virtual Insect," she said the best way to learn about flight is by first looking at what happens naturally.

Look at how such thin structures as falling paper move through a fluid environment like air, she said, and then examine how insects use their wings to manipulate that environment and stay aloft.

"The major question I focus on is the question of efficiency," Wang said in an interview. "It's the long-standing question: Of birds and planes, which is better? And if we think planes are better -- why?"

Conventional wisdom holds that airplanes (airfoils) are more efficient because they travel from point to point with no wasted up-and-down motion. "But there are infinitely many ways you can go up and down," said Wang. "Of all these paths, are any better than a straight line? Some are -- that's what I found."

The insight came from dragonflies.

"Dragonflies have a very odd stroke. It's an up-and-down stroke instead of a back-and-forth stroke," she said. "Dragonflies are one of the most maneuverable insects, so if they're doing that they're probably doing it for a reason. But what's strange about this is the fact that they're actually pushing down first in the lift.

"An airfoil uses aerodynamic lift to carry its weight. But the dragonfly uses a lot of aerodynamic drag to carry its weight. That is weird, because with airplanes you always think about minimizing drag. You never think about using drag."

The next question, she said, is whether engineers can use these ideas to build a flapping machine as efficient as a fixed-wing aircraft.

Questions of size and feasibility remain. "To hover well or to fly for a long time is hard, especially at slow speeds," she said. "Power is limited. So finding these efficient motions is very important."

Still, Wang's work moves researchers a step closer to building such a machine.

"I want to build insects on a computer as a way of learning why almost all things that move in fluid use a flapping motion," said Wang. "Whether it's a fish which flips its fins or a bird, they're actually using the same principle.

"The way paper or leaves fall, and how insects fly, may give us some ideas about why animals use these methods at all," she said.
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PostPosted: Wed May 03, 2006 6:26 am    Post subject: Bees Form Better Democracy Reply with quote

Bees Form Better Democracy
By Robin Lloyd
Special to LiveScience
posted: 02 May 2006
09:05 am ET



Take it from bees. Intense competition is better than touchy-feely "win-win" negotiations when it comes to making big decisions.

Ten years of painstaking research on how swarms of honeybees choose a new hive now shows their voting process for selecting new real estate is efficient and yields some losers while avoiding the folly of the collective, or of trying to come to a consensus.

The bees' approach might sound hardcore and less than democratic. But it almost always results in the choice of the best home among available options, said Thomas Seeley of Cornell University.

A better democracy

If humans were to take a page from honeybee home hunting, we too could learn to minimize bad decisions, he said.

"How the scout bees select candidate sites, deliberate among choices and reach a verdict is a process complicated enough to rival the dealings of any corporate committee," Seeley wrote in a recent article in American Scientist magazine summarizing his research.

Seeley and his colleague, Kirk Visscher of the University of California-Riverside, tagged, observed, videotaped and experimented with swarms of up to 10,000 honeybees at Appledore Island in the Gulf of Maine. The setting has few trees, which allows Seeley and Visscher to set up test homes (boxes) from which the bees can choose.

Here is what they found: When bees outgrow their hives, a few hundred scouts selected by the queen search for the perfect, new location for a swarm—a south-facing knothole that is smaller than 4.7 square inches, perched several yards above the ground and leads to a hollow in the tree that is at least 5 gallons in volume.

Scouts return to the waiting swarm and perform a waggle dance, vibrating their abdomens laterally while walking in figure eights, to report on what they found. The longer the waggle dance, the better the site. This prompts other scouts to visit the recommended site.

Competition

Scouts compete to attract uncommitted scouts to visit their sites. As time passes, coalitions form that prefer one site over another.

Instead of hashing it out endlessly, the group usually makes a decision with no more than 16 hours of dancing debate. As soon as 15 or more bees are at any one site, the scouts signal to the waiting bees in the swarm to warm up their flight muscles. Soon, the swarm lifts off toward its new home.

"The bees' method, which is a product of disagreement and contest rather than consensus or compromise, consistently yields excellent collective decisions," Seeley said.

An open forum for opinions and a decentralized, competitive "debate" that filters out extreme or inaccurate opinions are the key features that make the bees' decision-making process effective, Seeley said.

Americans value democracy, or at least a representative version of it. Honeybees have evolved to rely on this quorum or majority method to collect independent opinions, something that differs from a one-man, one-vote democracy or an agonizing attempt to hammer out something everyone agrees upon.

It's a faster route to a swift and also smart decision, Seeley said.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 24, 2006 7:08 am    Post subject: Losing the bees and the flowers Reply with quote

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Losing the bees and the flowers
20 July 2006


What would a world without bees be like? Well, picnics would be easier – no bee stings to worry about – but it would a lot harder to fill that picnic basket. The plants that produce many of our fruits and vegetables depend on bees for pollination. So do plants that give us beautiful wildflowers and food for livestock.

So, to recap, bees: not so cuddly, but still important friends. A new study from Europe suggests that we need to pay close attention bees and the plants they pollinate, because both are disappearing in some places.

Jacobus Biesmeijer (yes, this is pronounced "Bees-meyer") of the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and his colleagues compiled thousands of records of where people have spotted bees, hoverflies and various pollinated plants over recent decades in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. Hoverflies make up another group of pollinating insects.

The researchers found that the diversity of bee and pollinated-plant species have both decreased since 1980. The hoverflies didn't show such a clear pattern. The researchers think this may be because the flies can pollinate a wider variety of plants, whereas the bees are more choosy.

It's too early to tell if the bees are disappearing because the plants are, or vice versa, but the researchers do think the two trends are linked to each other. The study appears in the 21 July issue of the journal Science.
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 22, 2006 3:02 pm    Post subject: Ancient birds flew on all-fours Reply with quote

University of Calgary
22 September 2006
Ancient birds flew on all-fours

Bird flight evolved using front and hind limbs as wings, new fossil study argues
The earliest known ancestor of modern-day birds took to the skies by gliding from trees using primitive feathered wings on their arms and legs, according to new research by a University of Calgary paleontologist. In a paper published in the journal Paleobiology, Department of Biological Sciences PhD student Nick Longrich challenges the idea that birds began flying by taking off from the ground while running and shows that the dinosaur-like bird Archaeopteryx soared using wing-like feathers on all of its limbs.

"The discussions about the origins of avian flight have been dominated by the so-called 'ground up' and 'trees down' hypotheses," Longrich said. "This paper puts forward some of the strongest evidence yet that birds descended from arboreal parachuters and gliders, similar to modern flying squirrels."

The first fossil of the Jurassic-era dinosaur Archaeopteryx lithographica was discovered in Germany in 1861, two years after Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution in On The Origin of Species. Since then, eight additional specimens have been unearthed and Archaeopteryx is considered the best evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs since it had both feathers and a bird-like wishbone, along with classic reptilian features of a long bony tail, claws and teeth.

Although scientists immediately noticed feather-like structures on the hind limbs, they were dismissed as insulating body feathers that didn't play a role in the animal's flight. It wasn't until several four-winged dinosaurs in China were described in 2002 that researchers began to re-examine Archaeopteryx's legs.

"The idea of a multi-winged Archaeopteryx has been around for more than a century, but it hasn't received much attention," Longrich said. "I believe one reason for this is that people tend to see what they want or expect to see. Everybody knows that birds don't have four wings, so we overlooked them even when they were right under our noses."

Under the supervision of professor Anthony Russell, Longrich examined Archaeopteryx fossils and determined that the dinosaur's leg feathers have an aerodynamic structure that imply its rear limbs likely acted as lift-generating "winglets" that played a significant role in flight.


###
Nick Longrich's paper, "Structure and function of hindlimb feathers in Archaeopteryx lithographica" appears in the September, 2006 issue of the journal Paleobiology. The paper's abstract is available on the journal's website at: http://www.paleosoc.org/Content/Frame4.html

More on this news:

http://www.livescience.com/ani.....wings.html
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2006 7:55 am    Post subject: Honey bee genome holds clues to social behavior Reply with quote

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
23 october 2006

Honey bee genome holds clues to social behavior

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- By studying the humble honey bee, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have come a step closer to understanding the molecular basis of social behavior in humans.

"The honey bee (Apis millifera) has been called a model system for social behavior," said Saurabh (pronounced SAW-rub) Sinha, a professor of computer science and an affiliate of the university's Institute for Genomic Biology. Using that model system, Sinha led a team that searched the honey bee genome for clues for social cues – a form of bee pressure that can cause bees to change jobs in response to needs of the hive.

"We want to learn how the honey bee society influences behavior in individual honey bees," said Sinha, who is lead author of a paper that will be posted online this week ahead of regular publication by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "By studying the social regulation of gene expression, we hope to extrapolate the biology to humans."

Adult worker bees perform a number of tasks in the hive when they are young, such as caring for eggs and larvae, and then shift to foraging for nectar and pollen as they age. However, if the hive has a shortage of foragers, some of the young nurse bees will switch jobs and become foragers.

The job transition, whether triggered by age or social cues, involves changes in thousands of genes in the honey bee brain; some genes turn on, while others turn off.

Genes are switched on and off by short strings of DNA that lie close to the gene. The strings serve as binding sites for particular molecules, called transcription factors. For example, when the correct transcription factor latches into the binding site, the gene may be switched on. If the transcription factor breaks away from the binding site, the gene is switched off.

To search for genes that might play a role in social behavior, Sinha and his colleagues used the newly sequenced honey bee genome to scan the binding sites of transcription factors known to function in the development of fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) from a single cell to an adult.

A computer algorithm written by the researchers scanned nearly 3,000 genes. Statistical techniques were then used to investigate whether particular transcription factors correlated with genes that were differentially expressed (turned on or off) between nurse bees and foragers.

"We found five different transcription factors that showed a statistically significant correlation with socially regulated genes," Sinha said. "It appears that genes involved in nervous-system development in fruit flies are re-used by nature for behavioral functions in adult honey bees."

Their findings, Sinha said, suggest that honey bees will be useful in elucidating the mechanisms by which social factors regulate gene expression in brains, including those of humans.


###
With Sinha, co-authors are computer science professor Chengxiang Zhai, graduate student Xu Ling, and entomology professors Charles Whitfield and Gene Robinson. The work was funded by the University of Illinois and the National Science Foundation.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 6:49 am    Post subject: All World's Honeybees Out of Africa Reply with quote

All World's Honeybees Out of Africa

By Sara Goudarzi
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 25 October 2006
01:02 pm ET

You can be stung in Rome, Moscow or Phoenix. But the honey bee is originally from Africa, scientists reported today.

By looking at variations in genetic markers from 341 bees, researchers found that the common honey bee, Apis mellifera, originated in Africa and migrated to Europe at least twice.

"The migrations resulted in two European populations that are geographically close, but genetically quite different," said lead study author Charles Whitfield from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "In fact, the two European populations are more related to honey bees in Africa than to each other."

The researchers used simple variations in the bee DNA, called single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), to figure out where the bees came from and their relationship to one another.

The researchers compared 1,136 markers, many more than was available for previous studies. The vast number of markers allowed the scientists to decipher the bees genetic information more precisely than ever before.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/ani....._bees.html
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 16, 2006 8:22 am    Post subject: How Fat Flies Finesse Flight Reply with quote

How Fat Flies Finesse Flight

By Jeanna Bryner
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 15 November 2006
12:19 pm ET

Blowflies aren't blessed with sleek bodies and large wings—features that enhance aerodynamics—so they need extra gear for staying aloft.

Turns out the lumbering insects keep from spiraling into dizzying tailspins with help from a special motion-sensitive neuron that picks up information from the insects' eyes, scientists have learned.

"This more than makes up for their lack of passive stability, and in fact makes them extremely maneuverable," said research team member Matthew Parsons of the University of Cambridge.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/ani....._roll.html
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 9:02 am    Post subject: An Ancient Feathered Biplane Reply with quote

An Ancient Feathered Biplane
Emily Sohn

Jan. 31, 2007

When the Wright Brothers lifted off at Kitty Hawk in 1903, they flew a plane with two sets of wings, one below the other. Their feat went down in history as the first successful flight by a heavier-than-air aircraft.
New evidence suggests that dinosaurs may have beaten the Wright Brothers to the punch in coming up with a biplane design.

For the full article:

http://www.sciencenewsforkids....../Note3.asp
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2007 7:42 am    Post subject: Is there a pilot in the insect? Reply with quote

CNRS

Is there a pilot in the insect?
13 February 2007

When they fly, insects use their vision for piloting, just like human pilots. The electric signals from their facetted eyes travel through specialized neurons to stimulate the wing muscles, which let the insects correct their flight and avoid crashes. Could these same neurons be used in a sort of "automatic pilot"? This is what Nicolas Franceschini, Franck Ruffier and Julien Serres have just shown. These biorobotics specialists from the Movement and Perception Laboratory (CNRS/Université de la Méditerranée) in Marseille, France have revealed an automatic mechanism called the "optic flow regulator" that controls the lift force. The researchers obtained these results by modeling the overland flight navigation of insects using experiments carried out on OCTAVE, a captive flying robot microhelicopter that can reproduce much of the mysterious natural insect behavior. Their work is published online in Current Biology, February 8, 2007.

How does a tiny creature like a fly or a bee, with a brain the size of a pinhead, manage to make such a magnificent job of controlling its flight, and avoid crashing to the ground? Today it is known that the sensory motor prowess of these flying miniatures depends on the nervous system, made up of between one hundred thousand and one million neurons. When an insect, bird or pilot flies over land, the image of the ground below sweeps from front to back across the central part of the visual field, creating an "optic flow", which is defined as the angular speed at which the ground contrasts move past. By definition, this angular speed is equal to the ratio of the horizontal speed and the altitude. What these authors call an "optic flow regulator" is a reflex that keeps the optic flow, and thus the speed/altitude ratio, at a constant value. If the insect changes speed, this reflex will make it change altitude so that ratio remains constant. Adjusting the speed/altitude ratio means that the insect has no need to measure either its speed or its altitude.

If there is a strong headwind, its forward speed will be reduced. Thus its optic flow regulator will constantly force it to reduce altitude so that the optic flow always remains at the reference value. The insect has to make a forced landing against the wind, but a safe landing, because it takes place at a vertical speed of zero. Reactions of this type to a headwind have been described countless times in insects and even in birds. They are also observed on the microhelicopter each time it faces a laboratory-produced headwind, reinforcing the hypothesis that flying creatures have an optic flow regulator.

The very simple control scheme proposed takes into account 70 years of often surprising observations of the behavior of winged insects. It accounts for the fact not only that insects descend facing a headwind and ascend with a tailwind, but also that honeybees land with a constant slope and drown when crossing mirror-smooth water1.

Behind this astonishing behavior, hidden in the insect's cockpit, are movement detector neurons that act as optic flow sensors. The team patiently decoded the functioning of these neurons using ultra-fine microelectrodes (with a diameter of a thousandth of a millimeter) and a specially designed microscope. They then produced an electronic microcircuit based on this principle. The most recent version weighs only 0.2 grams. This is the neuron that does most of the work on board the microhelicopter.

The optic flow regulator helps explain how an insect manages to fly, even in unfavorable wind conditions, without measuring its ground height, groundspeed or descent speed, in other words without using any of the usual aircraft onboard flight aids like radar, GPS, radio-altimeters and variometers. An insect brain wouldn't cope with these cumbersome, heavy, energy-consuming devices.

This important work shows that this new science called biorobotics, that the team from Marseille started in 1985, is important both for fundamental and applied research. The method consists in using robotics models to test biological principles that are perceived only vaguely at the outset.

These hidden forces underlying animal behavior can then be understood more exactly by permanently shuttling between biology and robotics. These principles have been tried and tested for millions of years, and today they need to be applied to aerospace, because the phases in which an airship or a space module navigates close to the ground are absolutely crucial.

The researchers and CNRS have filed an international patent for the "fly automatic pilot".


###
1. When ripples are totally absent from a pond surface, for example, the (natural and artificial) optic flow sensors are put out of action because there are no contrasts. This results in insects being drawn irresistibly downwards.

Photo 1 - A Bluebottle fly (Calliphora) photographed head on through a special microscope (Lieberkühn microscope) built in the lab from two bicycle headlamps. After Franceschini, N. "From insect vision to robot vision: Re-construction as a mode of discovery" In: "Sensors and Sensing in Biology and Engineering", Barth, F.G., Humphrey, J. A., Secomb T.W. (Eds.), Springer, Berlin, 2003, pp. 223-235) © N. Franceschini, CNRS. (This picture is available from the CNRS photo-library, +33(0)1 45 07 57 90, phototheque@cnrs-bellevue.fr).
Photo 2 – A fly fitted with a microelectrode "leash" that records the activity of certain visual neurons during locomotion. © CNRS Photothèque / Hubert RAGUET. (This picture is available from the CNRS photo-library, +33(0)1 45 07 57 90, phototheque@cnrs-bellevue.fr).

REFERENCE

A bio-inspired flying robot sheds light on insect piloting abilities, Current biology 17, 4 (February 20). Franceschini, N., Ruffier, F., Serres, J. (2007).
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 7:08 am    Post subject: Honeybee Buzzes Can Warn Against Toxins Reply with quote

Honeybee Buzzes Can Warn Against Toxins

By Andrea Thompson
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 05 March 2007
02:24 pm ET

Honeybees could be useful as highly sensitive, living alarm systems, say scientists who have discovered that the bees’ buzz changes when they are exposed to different types of chemicals.

For centuries, beekeepers have known that the buzzing of a beehive changes when the queen bee is removed, and now it has been shown that this behavior may help soldiers detect toxic chemicals such as those potentially used in terror attacks and help beekeepers monitor the health of their hives.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/ani.....alarm.html
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 10:47 am    Post subject: New Blimp Swims in Air Like Fish Reply with quote

New Blimp Swims in Air Like Fish

By Bill Christensen

posted: 27 March 2007
09:54 am ET

A blimp that swims through the air like a fish has been created by Swiss researchers. The fish-like airship uses artificial muscles made from electroactive polymers (EAPs) to propel itself forward.

Researcher Silvain Michel and his team have patented this unique silent non-rigid airship; it uses its artificial muscles to power through the air like a trout swimming in a brook. It uses the same "bending-rotation-stroke" used by fish in the water—bending its body in one direction and its tail in the other.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/sci.....blimp.html
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2007 8:21 pm    Post subject: Flies don't buzz about aimlessly! Reply with quote

Public Library of Science
3 April 2007

Flies don't buzz about aimlessly!

How you ever stopped to wonder how a fruit fly is able to locate and blissfully drown in your wine glass on a warm summer evening, especially since its flight path seems to be so erratic? Mark Frye at the University of California and Andy Reynolds at Rothamsted Research in the United Kingdom have been pondering this very question.

Fruit flies explore their environment using a series of straight flight paths punctuated by rapid 90° body-saccades. Some of these manoeuvres avoid obstacles in their path. But many others seem to appear spontaneously. Are the spontaneous flight paths really random, do they serve any real purpose?

Armed with a computer video tracking system and an array of mathematical techniques the two researchers have revealed how the flight patterns of starved fruit flies constitute an optimal scale-free searching strategy – like the fractal patterns of a snowflake, a fly flight path appears similar whether viewed up close, or from a distance.

The researchers also found that searching is intermittent, such that flies actively search by making tight turns, and fly straight some distance to begin searching again. Scale-free movement patterns have been found in diverse animals including zooplankton, wandering albatrosses, jackals, and even human hunter-gathers. Intermittent searchers include octopi, graylings, and mating crickets.

Andy Reynolds says, "Our results with freely flying Drosophila appear to be the first reported example of searching behaviour that is both scale-free and intermittent. This suggests that these behaviours are not part of two different searching strategies, but rather represent a single very effective and perhaps widely adopted strategy." Mark Frye believes, "This result is particularly exciting because it suggests a unified theory for one of the most critical behaviour animals exhibit – foraging for food."

The next step will be toward integrating these results with the neurobiology of fly flight to better understand how these tiny animals are so successful at crashing our dinner parties. The research will appear in the April 4th issue of the international, peer-reviewed, open-access online journal PLoS ONE.

###
Disclaimer

The following press release refers to an upcoming article in PLoS ONE. The release has been provided by the article authors and/or their institutions. Any opinions expressed in this are the personal views of the contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of PLoS. PLoS expressly disclaims any and all warranties and liability in connection with the information found in the release and article and your use of such information.

Contact:
Mark Frye
frye@physci.ucla.edu

Senior Media Relations Representative UCLA
Stuart Wolpert
(310) 206-0511
swolpert@support.ucla.edu

Rothamsted Press Office
+44 (0)1582 763133
elspeth.bartlet@bbsrc.ac.uk

Citation: Reynolds AM, Frye MA (2007) Free-Flight Odor Tracking in Drosophila Is Consistent with an Optimal Intermittent Scale-Free Search. PLoS ONE 2(4): e354. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000354

PLEASE ADD THE LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0000354
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PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2007 8:15 am    Post subject: How to Fly Like a Bat Reply with quote

How to Fly Like a Bat
Emily Sohn

May 9, 2007

It takes weeks, treats, and a lot of patience to train a bat to fly inside a wind tunnel. Bats already know how to fly, of course. The problem is to get them to do it inside a small tunnel with the wind rushing at them.
So scientists at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, use rewards to coax the animals. If the bats land on the floor or walls of the wind tunnel and refuse to fly, the scientists move them to an enclosure without food. But "if they fly for a minute without crashing, we feed them," says Sharon Swartz, a biologist at Brown.

The bats soon learn that to get a treat, they have to fly.

For the full article:

http://www.sciencenewsforkids......ature1.asp
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PostPosted: Thu May 10, 2007 1:18 pm    Post subject: Bat flight generates complex aerodynamic tracks Reply with quote

University of Southern California
10 May 2007

Bat flight generates complex aerodynamic tracks

Bats generate a measurably distinct aerodynamic footprint to achieve lift and maneuverability, quite unlike birds and contrary to many of the assumptions that aerodynamicists have used to model animal flight, according to University of Southern California aerospace engineer Geoffrey Spedding.

The researcher, together with a multi-institutional team of scientists found that bat flight is quite different from bird flight, particularly at very small scales. They based their findings on new measurements of aerodynamic performance in the wing beats of a small species of bat.

For the full article:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_.....050707.php
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 09, 2007 7:32 am    Post subject: Where Have All the Bees Gone? Reply with quote

Where Have All the Bees Gone?
Jennifer Cutraro

June 13, 2007

Entomologists—scientists who study insects—have a real mystery on their hands. All across the country, honeybees are leaving their hives and never returning.
It doesn't take long before a hive is nearly empty. Researchers call this phenomenon colony-collapse disorder. According to surveys of beekeepers across the country, 25 to 40 percent of the honeybees in the United States have vanished from their hives since last fall. So far, no one can explain why.


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http://www.sciencenewsforkids......ature1.asp
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 8:46 am    Post subject: Bees Have Favorite Color Reply with quote

Bees Have Favorite Color
By Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience

posted: 19 June 2007 10:38 pm ET

There might actually be a useful purpose for having a favorite color—at least if you're a bee.

The favorite color of the buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), violet in its case, could help it find more sweet nectar, scientists now find.

Researchers took bees that had never seen real flowers from nine southern Germany bumblebee colonies and exposed them to violet or blue artificial flowers in the lab. The investigators found these bees—one of the most numerous bumblebee species in Europe—often prefer violet to blue, seemingly innately.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/ani.....color.html
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2007 8:01 am    Post subject: Mystery Solved: How Airplane-Sized Bird Flew Reply with quote

Mystery Solved: How Airplane-Sized Bird Flew
By Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Staff Writer

posted: 02 July 2007 05:01 pm ET

With a wingspan of more than 20 feet, a condor the size of a Cessna airplane relied on updrafts to glide up to 40 mph above the plains of Argentina some 6 million years ago.

Scientists have known the ancient bird could fly. But they didn't know if Argentavis magnificens, the largest bird ever to take to the skies, flapped its wings or simply glided. Now, with computer simulations based on fossil bones of the bird, scientists reveal that wing-flapping alone would not have provided enough power to keep the 150-pound bird aloft.

Instead, the lazy aviator must have hitched a ride from rising columns of air.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/ani.....lider.html
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 7:32 am    Post subject: Birds Bend Rules of Flight Reply with quote

Birds Bend Rules of Flight
By Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience

posted: 17 July 2007 12:11 am ET

Top speed for airplanes is assumed to be limited by simple rules of aerodynamics. But birds seem to break these rules in new research that underscores how complex nature can really get.

The fastest speeds at which the smallest insects and the largest aircraft can fly are typically expected to depend solely on how much they weigh and how large their wings are.

Animal ecologist Thomas Alerstam at Lund University in Sweden and his colleagues collected radar data on the flight speeds of 138 bird species, ranging from songbirds weighing less than an ounce to 20-pound swans.

The researchers found the difference in speed between small and large birds was not as great as the rules of aerodynamics might predict. They figure evolution forces birds to adopt speeds that better fit their lifestyles. For instances, large birds may fly slower than expected because high speed can prove inconvenient, "especially during takeoff, maneuvering and landing," Alerstam explained.

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http://www.livescience.com/ani.....rules.html
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2007 7:57 am    Post subject: Robotic Bird Designed to Spy on Humans Reply with quote

Robotic Bird Designed to Spy on Humans
By Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Staff Writer

posted: 19 July 2007 02:34 pm ET

A shape-shifting, robotic bird that can sweep through the skies without a peep has all the right stuff for ground surveillance and even spying on its real-life inspiration—the common swift.

Engineering students presented their design of the so-called RoboSwift at an annual Design Synthesis symposium at the Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands. The robotic bird measures 20 inches (51 centimeters) from wingtip to wingtip and weighs less than three ounces (80 grams).

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/tec.....plane.html
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 23, 2007 9:32 am    Post subject: Bumblebees make bee line for gardens, National Bumblebee Nes Reply with quote

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
23 July 2007

Bumblebees make bee line for gardens, National Bumblebee Nest Survey finds

Britain's gardens are vital habitats for nesting bumblebees, new research has found. The results come from the National Bumblebee Nest Survey, which are published online in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology, and the findings will help conservationists understand – and hopefully address – the factors responsible for declining bumblebee populations.

During the National Bumblebee Nest Survey, more than 700 volunteers surveyed their own gardens plus one of six different countryside habitats for bumblebee nests. They found that gardens contain the highest densities of bumblebee nests (36 nests per ha), followed by hedgerows, fence lines and woodland edges (20-37 nests/ha). Nest densities were lower in woodland and grassland (11-15 nests/ha). Until now, little has been known about which habitats are best for bumblebee nests.

According to the study's lead author, Dr Juliet Osborne of Rothamsted Research: “Gardens clearly provide an important habitat for bumblebees and, although in the countryside the total area occupied by field margins and hedgerows is relatively small, sympathetic management – as encouraged by current environmental stewardship schemes – could improve bumblebee nesting opportunities in farmland.”

As well as providing important information on which habitats are the most important for bumblebee nests, the study also shows what a valuable contribution members of the public can make to ecological research. “We were delighted that people volunteered to do the survey. The success of the survey shows that public participation is very useful for monitoring bumblebees,” says Osborne.

Bumblebees are important pollinators of our crops and wild plants, but their populations have declined dramatically over the past 50 years. The decline is thought to be linked to the impact of modern farming methods on bumblebees' food plants. But as well as food, bumblebees need nesting sites for queens to start new colonies in spring.

Gardens are attractive nest sites for bumblebees for many reasons. Osborne says: “The diversity of garden features and gardening styles provide a large variety of potential nesting sites compared to more uniform countryside habitats. Areas with gardens have a high concentration of boundary features, such as hedges, fences, and garden buildings, which are suitable for nesting. Bumblebees also like nesting in compost heaps, bird boxes and flower beds. Gardeners like to see flowers almost all year round, so this ensures continuity of nectar and pollen sources for the bees throughout spring and summer at a density rarely encountered in the countryside.”

Bumblebees' penchant for nesting in linear habitats in the countryside is less easy to explain. It could simply be because bees are confined to these habitats in heavily cultivated areas, or relate to the fact that bees use landmarks like hedges for navigation. “Bumblebees are known to use linear features such as hedgerows to guide their foraging activity and queen bumblebees may found more nests in or near linear features because they could act as conspicuous linear landmarks to help them get back home,” Osborne says.

###
J L Osborne et al (2007). Quantifying and comparing bumblebee nest densities in gardens and countryside habitats. Journal of Applied Ecology, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2007.01359.x is published online on 23 July 2007.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2007 7:16 am    Post subject: Bees and Pollination Reply with quote

Bees and Pollination

http://www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/agnic/bee/
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2007 9:56 am    Post subject: Birds learn to fly with a little help from their ancestors Reply with quote

14 August 2007
University of Sheffield

Birds learn to fly with a little help from their ancestors

A researcher at the University of Sheffield has discovered that the reason birds learn to fly so easily is because latent memories may have been left behind by their ancestors.



It is widely known that birds learn to fly through practice, gradually refining their innate ability into a finely tuned skill. However, according to Dr Jim Stone from the University of Sheffield´s Department of Psychology, these skills may be easy to refine because of a genetically specified latent memory for flying.

Dr Stone used simple models of brains called artificial neural networks and computer simulations to test his theory. He discovered that learning in previous generations indirectly induces the formation of a latent memory in the current generation and therefore decreases the amount of learning required. These effects are especially pronounced if there is a large biological 'fitness cost' to learning, where biological fitness is measured in terms of the number of offspring each individual has.

The beneficial effects of learning also depend on the unusual form of information storage in neural networks. Unlike computers, which store each item of information in a specific location in the computer's memory chip, neural networks store each item distributed over many neuronal connections. If information is stored in this way then evolution is accelerated, explaining how complex motor skills, such as nest building and hunting skills, are acquired by a combination of innate ability and learning over many generations.

Dr Stone said: "This new theory has its roots in ideas proposed by James Baldwin in 1896, who made the counter-intuitive argument that learning within each generation could guide evolution of innate behaviour over future generations. Baldwin was right, but in ways more subtle than he could have imagined because concepts such as artificial neural networks and distributed representations were not known in his time."


Notes for Editors: Results are reported in: Stone JV, "Distributed Representations Accelerate Evolution of Adaptive Behaviours", PLoS Computational Biology, 2007 (in press).
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 01, 2007 12:30 pm    Post subject: Bird Makes Longest Non-Stop Flight Reply with quote

Bird Makes Longest Non-Stop Flight
By Andrea Thompson, LiveScience Staff Writer

posted: 01 October 2007 11:28 am ET

She just flew in from New Zealand and boy are her wings tired.

Early last month, a female Bar-tailed Godwit, a type of shorebird, completed an epic journey from New Zealand to Alaska and back, a trip that included the longest flight ever recorded for a land bird, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/ani.....light.html
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