Understanding Echolocation

Nature and the world around us are filled with all kinds of amazing phenomena. In fact, scientific study provides parents, researchers, and educators with a means by which your kids can learn to understand it. In the case of bats, has your curiosity for knowledge given you reason to wonder how bats communicate while in flight? Join your kids at the Math Blaster blog to learn more about Echolocation and its role in the happenings of the night sky in areas where bats are common.

 

 

What is Echolocation? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, Echolocation in it’s simplest form is, “a physiological process for locating distant or invisible objects (as prey) by sound waves reflected back to the emitter (as a bat) from the objects.” This is especially useful to creatures like bats as their nocturnal lifestyle makes it important for them to be able to navigate the night sky. Through echolocation, they are able to locate prey and also estimate distance as they fly from “point a” to “point b.”

The sound of the echo reflections are emitted back to the bat’s ears to allow them to process basic spatial information without the use of their eyes and light. Isn’t that neat? Can you imagine flying blindly, depending completely on the use of echolocation to navigate through life? This natural phenomenon gives new meaning to that common saying, “blind as a bat!”

Understanding the Origin of Stars

Stars light up the night sky on a daily basis and are for both kids and adults tiny twinkling specimens that are full of mystery. After all how much do you little ones really know about where stars come from and how they illuminate the skies? Scientific study has revealed stars to be collections of atoms floating in space that form carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Under the right conditions stars and even small planets form as a result.

Photo by: epSos.de

To dive deeper into the study of stars and their formation, NASA has just recently sent a flight into a star nursery to properly observe the inner workings of star formations. This will give researchers and scientists the opportunity to see the step by step process of how a star comes to be. The payload sent into space is known as the Colorado High-resolution Echelle Stellar Spectrograph, or CHESS.

This all new technology is allowing us to record details such as the timeline breakdown for the forming of the clouds in space. Sending the CHESS into space also allows NASA to test for sending future satellites into space.

The Fly on the Wall

It is easy to dismiss their presence and want to overlook the pesky circling of fruit flies, but these little organisms are actually more complex than they might look. In fact, researchers have recently been studying these bugs to come to a better understanding of their thought process. A team of neuroscientists have observed fluctuations in the time they take to process information before acting on a decision to hypothesize that they actually take a longer amount of time to make what scientists have determined as more difficult decisions.

Photo by: USDAGov

Are these tiny pests of a heightened intelligence than we might have initially thought? That is exactly the question that researchers are hoping to answer as they delve further into their studies. So how exactly are they testing the flies’ decision making skills? Like with any experiment they create a controlled environment testing certain variable options. More specifically they encase the flies in a narrow compartment, pitting two concentrated scents on both ends of a spectrum to see where the flies end up.

As for measuring the difficulty of the decision, scientists varied the distance between the concentrated scents. The closer the concentrations were, the longer the flies took to differentiate and identify to which area they preferred to fly. The consistency of the results, allowed them to conclude that there are links in the system which humans use to make decisions and that of these flies, which is all connected to the FoxP gene. Needless to say, there is more to these flies than meets the eye!

Avoiding a Sticky Situation

The tentacles of an octopus will stick to just about anything—well, almost anything. These suckers usually don’t suction onto to the octopus itself, allowing this brilliant and flexible creature to avoid getting tangled up in its own arms. Researchers are studying this undersea creature’s talent of escaping a twisted situation with hopes that what they find can be strategically used in bio-inspired robot design.

Photo By Joes Parks

Photo By Joes Parks

Scientists observed that the reason why the octopus doesn’t end up in a knotted mess, is because of the animal’s great intelligence that demonstrates “self-avoidance.” This ability is actually a reflex, that can be turned on and off as the cephalopod pleases. A sort of chemical signal in the skin is activated that controls the suckers from grabbing onto their skin.

Researchers aim to support the development of a new kind of “soft robot” in the shape of an octopus arm, perfect for using in human surgeries. These types of robots would be able to reshape their forms, making it easy to maneuver around unfamiliar obstacles inside the human body!

Science Fair Projects

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of conducting your own scientific experiment. Science fair projects can give students the opportunity to practice their scientific thinking, on top of building onto their problem-solving skills. Hands-on experiments help to engage and connect kids with the many topics that science brings up. Spark up a new found discovery of scientific exploration with these ideas for science fair projects.

Photo By Jose Kevo

Photo By Jose Kevo

Build your own working compass

What you will need:

  1.  A steel paper clip
  2. A magnet
  3. The cap from a milk jug
  4. A pie plate (9 to 12 inches in diameter)

Steps:

  • Fill your pie dish with water.
  • Place the cap from a milk jug onto the water to float. Center the float.
  • Straighten the steel paper clip and turn it into a magnet—Take your magnet and stroke it along the straightened paper clip around 15 times.
  • Place the magnetized paper clip onto the float and watch as your paperclip will slowly point North!

With hands-on experiments like these, kids will have a blast when discovering that they are fully capable of carrying out their own scientific experiment! For more inspiration on science fair projects, follow us on Pinterest and share with us some of your favorite discoveries!

Impressive Strength: The Peacock Mantis Shrimp

The ocean dwelling Peacock Mantis Shrimp is tougher than its name implies. Do not let this pretty little guy fool you—this creature’s front appendages can strike with an underwater acceleration that equates to the same velocity of a speeding bullet from 22-calibur rifle! So why are researchers willing to go face to face with such a menacing little crustacean? Researchers have designed a structure for composite materials that can resist impacts tougher than airplane standard materials. All of this is inspired by the stomatopod’s impressive strength that seems out of this world!

Photo by Craig D

Photo by Craig D

With raptorial appendages that fold under its body, similar to that of a Praying Mantis, the Peacock Mantis Shrimp can deliver a hard hitting blow. They can wield their fist-like clubs to strike prey with great force at speeds up to 50 miles per hour in milliseconds—we can blink and miss this shrimp’s punch! Their appendages move so fast that the water that surrounds these limbs start to boil and create cavitation bubbles. When these bubbles collapse, they produce an underwater shock wave that is strong enough to affect their prey even if the Mantis Shrimp misses its target.

What is most impressive about this species is that is can punch up to 50,000 times with out damaging its clubs before molting. This unbelievable strength of such a tiny animal is what makes them one of the more interesting species to scientists in the animal kingdom. Studying the Mantis Shrimp’s fist-like clubs, will allow researchers to identify the key components to its structure and applying that knowledge to creating improvements with everyday objects, including advanced body armor for combat troops.