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What are these tiny creatures hiding? Cutting edge research is uncovering the super powers of insects, so join us to discover what they are truely capable of. Also take part in the largest sciene quiz ever!
Detecting electricity: the newly discovered secret “sixth sense” of bees that could be all around us.
Sam England (Doctor of Philosophy Student)
Whether it be politics or an argument with a friend, as humans, we tend to be biased towards our own perspective. We therefore miss or ignore information that’s been right under our noses the whole time. This is particularly true in the field of sensory biology, where senses that humans do not possess tend to receive the least attention, perhaps because we struggle to imagine what it would be like to have that sense. This is probably why it wasn’t until 2013, at the University of Bristol, that bumblebees were discovered to be capable of detecting the electric field around flowers, and can use this information to decide which flowers to visit. This newly discovered “sixth sense”, aerial electroreception, has since been shown to play a role in communication between honeybees, and in allowing spiders to take off from flowers and travel hundreds of kilometres. As more animals are being shown to be sensitive to electric fields, it raises the question: could aerial electroreception actually be widespread, and we’ve simply never realised? In my talk, I will explain more about this fascinating electric sense and how my research hopes to uncover more examples of its use in nature.
How a moth wing helps create the next generation of sound absorbers
Marc Holdereid (Associate Professor)
Invisibility cloaks are fantastic devices in popular culture from Harry Potter to Star Trek. But even in the real world so-called metamaterials (synthetic composite materials with emergent new properties) can act as (partial) cloaks both against light (vision) and sound (acoustics). We recently discovered that the 65MY old arms race with their echolocating bat predators has equipped moths with remarkable acoustic metamaterials on their wings and bodies. These ultrathin sound absorbers offer protection because the strength of the echo bouncing off the moth's body determines the distance over which bats can detect it. In the talk we will use innovative acoustic tomographies to visualise how fur on bodies and scales on wings of moths provide acoustic cloaking. Turning the moth wing into bio-inspired new sound absorbers can help us in the struggle to maintain healthy living and working environments in our ever noisier world.