Mama Says … Science imitates life – again!


We all know of examples of things in nature that have found uses in modern life. For example, the digitalis plant was found to steady heart rhythms when ingested. Science took the plant and turned it into a pill form called Digoxin. Digoxin is used for cardiac patients who need the heart beat slowed and the rhythm made stronger.

Then there’s Vincristine. This chemotherapy drug comes from the periwinkle plant. Periwinkle flowers are a beautiful color, but who knew that a drug made from the plant would be used as a chemotherapy drug?

And from dolphins, sonar was developed. Not only does the Navy take advantage of sonar, but so do expecting parents when they have an ultrasound to see how their little one is developing in utero.

I just learned how science is using a characteristic that locusts have. Locusts, in my opinion, are just disgusting. In the Bible it says that John the Baptist ate locusts and honey. Even with honey on them you could not get me to eat one.  And I know locusts destroyed the crops when the new settlers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. They are pretty ugly critters, in MHO.

But here is what’s interesting… Locusts migrate in swarms as thick as 80 million locusts per 0.4 square miles. That is like a big black buzzing fast moving cloud. What is interesting is that they never bump into each other. So how does that happen?  Here’s the scoop. Behind each of a locust’s compound eyes is a motion-sensitive neuron called the lobula giant movement detector (LGMD). (Say that 10 times fast.) When a collision appears imminent, these neurons send messages to the wings and legs. In response the locust acts quickly to avoid hitting its fellow. The reaction has been timed and is five times faster than the blink of an eye. Awesome!

Borrowing from the locust’s internal “anti-collision” equipment, scientists have developed a computerized system that allows a mobile robot to detect and avoid approaching objects. This is done without the use of radar or infrared detectors. I wish I could remember which car company started advertising anti-collision “software” on their cars. They were saying that their cars were the safest in the world because this system allowed the driver to be warned of impending contact and the driver could therefore adjust his steering to avoid being hit. I am not sure if it was Volvo or Lexus. Readers, if you know, please tell me. I want to make sure I have the right auto maker. If this technology is as good as it sounds, maybe all vehicles rolling off the assembly line will come equipped with this as a standard feature.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it? I never cease to be amazed at what’s out there in the world, both naturally and scientifically derived. As the old saying goes, will wonders never cease? In the meantime, drive carefully and stay safe.

Blog you later!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *