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!”

Linking Icequakes and Earthquakes

How much do you know about icequakes? The terminology is not nearly as common to hear as ‘earthquakes,’ but in fact the two have some undeniable links. In its most basic form, icequakes or frost quakes are the breaking up on large frozen masses like ice sheets, glaciers and the like. So what does this all mean and how are these things linked? Read on to learn more!

Recent studies have linked the high impact 2010 Chilean earthquakes to noticeable changes in Antarctica in the form of these ice quakes. What makes the link between this case of earthquakes and subsequent icequakes is the 3,000 mile between the two areas. Not Studies since the 8.8 earthquake in 2010 have revealed that the ice in Antarctica is vulnerable to seismic waves even originating from remote locations.

This ripple effect can be explained to young learners through basic cause and affect principles. Learning about links like these can help them understand how science and the environment work through interlocking systems. Ultimately when one major even like high magnitude earth quakes occur, they can still have repercussions thousands of miles away.

Share this bit of knowledge with your kids to spark their interest in science!

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!

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.

Bark Beetles and Groundwater Flow

Recent studies have revealed relationship between the common bark beetle and the changing water quality and flow in the Rocky Mountain area of Colorado. As healthy pine trees begin to dry and falter at alarming rates, many look to the local infestation of these powerful beetles as the cause of acres of drying plant life. Affects that have become so damaging that natural groundwater flow is now being diverted, as the areas no longer need water to feed the lush and green pines that were once much more common.

Photo By: Forest Service Northern Region

Photo By: Forest Service Northern Region

So how does the removal of a few trees alter the flow of the surrounding groundwater streams, which have seen little change in recent years? Through the process of transpiration, healthy trees are actually able to take up water from the soil where they grow to transport throughout their plant structure. The excess gathering of water in the soil during this process eventually contributes to local water movement or streams, defining the direction and strength of the flow. Because of the number of trees drying out in the mountainous region, there is now an excess of water flowing through the ground, and feeding into local streams.

Scientists are now finding changes in the make of the quality of water. All of which has been a result of the bark beetles affect of local plant life. For such a small creature, the local population has caused quite the commotion.