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Think twice before stomping the lights out of the next cockroach you come across — you’re going to want them to return the favour after the takeover. Thanks to new research on this most vexatious blight of mankind, we can now say more or less definitively that the despised cockroach will, in fact, come to rule us all. Because, apparently, they’re developing the ability to outsmart our attempts at poisoning them dead.
Humans see the world through a pair of high resolution, single-lens eyes that allow us to adjust focus and pinpoint fine details. But simpler creatures, like insects, instead rely on compound eyes that have lower resolution but offer a much wider distortion-free field-of-view that’s actually better suited for lightning-fast motion perception.
Destin, our friend over at Smarter Every Day, has expanded our brains once again. Did you know that dragonfly wings work differently than nearly every other insect, utilising a direct flight mechanism?
Sending animals to do our dirty work — specifically of the drug-sniffing, bomb-hunting variety — isn’t a novel concept by any means. But while an animal bomb-sniffing squad might conjure up the image of a noble K9 dog, Croatians are now depending on a very different, perhaps not quite as loveable bomb fiend: the common honeybee.
What better way is there to advertise the effectiveness of your insecticide spray than with a billboard that also happens to double as a gigantic bug trap?
This little guy might not look much, but he’s the world’s smallest flying robotic insect — and he’s taken 12 years to get into the air. While engineers from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard have been able to get him to flap his wings for some time, they’d never managed controlled flight.
While you’d be forgiven for thinking that this looks like a dome of bubble wrap, it’s actually the world’s first working compound-eye camera — which sees the world just like an insect would. With 180 separate imaging elements — each replicating the separate ommatidium, or “small eyes” which make up an insect’s odd visual system — arranged over its surface, it works just like the eye of a fly or ant. That means it offers a wide field of view and virtually infinite depth of field.
It’s a general rule that everything is better in slow motion, but at 4700 frames a second, wasps just go from “creepy” to “still creepy”. The footage you see here is actually a .8 second clip by cinematographer Alan Teitel that’s been slowed down over 100 times.