Academic journal article The Science Teacher

A Moving Tale

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

A Moving Tale

Article excerpt

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) mathematicians have discovered how certain insects can climb what to them are steep, slippery slopes in the water's surface without moving their limbs, and do it at high speed.

Welcome to the world of the tiny creatures that live on the surface of ponds, lakes, and other standing bodies of water. There, "all the rules change," says David Hu, a graduate student in the MIT Department of Mathematics and first author of the paper, which appears in Nature.

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For the last four years, Hu and John Bush, an associate professor in the department, have studied the novel strategies these insects use to navigate their environment. To do so, the researchers took high-speed video of the creatures using a camera and then digitized and analyzed the images.

In 2003, the two researchers and Brian Chan, a graduate student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, reported in Nature how some of these creatures walk on water. Now Bush and Hu are describing how three species of insects are able to climb the slippery slopes, or menisci, that arise when the water surface meets land, floating bodies, or emergent vegetation. …

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