What Seems So Ordinary Is Quite Amazing

When observing nature in our daily lives, what seems to be just ordinary plants and animals around us are actually quite extraordinary. My cousin used to one of the leading experts in the country on butterflies, since retired he is still maintains his fascination for these remarkable designed creatures.

It would not be uncommon to find him filming butterflies in his front yard which I found him doing as he his property is distinctly set up to attract various kinds. He is not the only one who enjoys such hobbies, Loretta Downs like to raise butterflies in her garden as well.

In Phys.org

“You’d know it by the stained-glass wings of orange and black with drips of white, and the thousands upon thousands of butterflies that flutter in the monarch’s migratory river. It’s one that stretches from the old-growth oyamel fir forests in the mountains of central Mexico across 2,000 miles – with a scheduled stop, year after year, in Downs’ urban milkweed patch – to southern Canada, along the shores of Lake Ontario and beyond.”

What causes leaves to sprout in the spring? In Canada a few weeks ago, trees were bare looked lifeless, but all of sudden they are now bursting with buds everywhere. It’s a transformation that you generally will not discover on Mars or Titan!

“It’s actually two things. Even though we’re in the spring now, the whole program that you’re observing was set up in the autumn. As the days get shorter in the autumn and the temperatures decline, the tree sets itself up to go dormant and then in the same program sets itself up to burst bud in the spring.  And of the two components I mentioned, day length and temperature, the one in the autumn that’s most important is day length.”

“That functions as a signal for the plant to begin to shut down.  Actually, to put it another way, it’s night length that’s important.  As the nights get longer, the plant perceives the lengthening night or the shortening day and embarks on a program to shut down” says -PhysOrg. 

When camping further away from the main city, many times we hear what is called, cricket-like bugs called cicadas will be emerging from their underground hideouts which come of them have been in hiding for 13 to 17 years before that surface to perform their mating rituals.

“Scientists have little idea how vast broods of these insects manage to synchronize their long schedules and emerge simultaneously. The synchrony even extends across species. “A single brood may be comprised of one to three different species of periodical cicadas,” said Greg Hoover of the Penn State Department of Entomology.”

Although the article invokes evolution into the observation which always leaves questions begging, by claiming the reason why crickets (as we call them here) are exact in their timing (13 and 17 years) with their surfacing which makes them more elusive to predictors thus they say, evolution is responsible. The story about evolution (where instructions has evolved from one cricket to the next that enabled them to surface at the precise time) is not necessary in this observation and completely false in its notion, these noisy little bug-like crickets are quite remarkable in their designed behavior.

The U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center in West Bethesda, Maryland held a contest last month where two teams that are robot-building are trying to imitate the elegant swimming of the manta ray. Elisabeth Pennisi writes in Science

“Mantas are everything one could want in an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).  “I’ve thought for a long time that the people who are interested in robotic mimicry were missing the boat in not looking at manta rays,” says Adam Summers, a comparative biomechanist at Friday Harbor Laboratories in Washington state.  Most fish swing their body from side to side, and “that’s not very handy if you are trying to stuff [instruments] inside.”

“The manta body is stiff.  Mantas are also quiet, efficient swimmers—AUVs tend to be one or the other.  The best AUVs have a turning radius of 0.7 body lengths; the manta needs just 0.27 its body length and maneuvers like a fighter plane.  Based on the two robots’ performance, “in terms of maneuverability, we’re on the right track” in understanding how mantas achieve such grace, says Frank Fish, a functional morphologist at West Chester University in Pennsylvania who is working with UVa and Princeton on the manta project.”

Even though, she detailed how teams from Princeton and University of Virginia both failed, ended in a draw, the engineering design is on the right track but there is still a lot to know about these amazing animals! Science gets along great without invoking evolution into it. These observations are real, testable while many of the stories in evolution get falsified, some aspects of the story which is mounting more and more are not testable. The fun part of science is learning how nature works, even what seems ordinary around us is quite amazing when you take a closer look!