Friday, August 28, 2009

Bee Communication and Non-Human Intelligence; And a Dying Planet

A quick look at two not-quite-related articles.

"Bee Celestial Navigation and Non-Human Intelligence" (August 27, 2009)

"Millions of years ago a group of wasps 'decided to' become vegetarians and so today we have the bee. Some of their cousins 'decided to' quit flying and so became the ants, but that is another story. Although only about 20% of bees are social, honey bees are very social indeed. It has been stated by several biologists that, if it were not for the honey bee pollinating plants, humans would only last 3 or 4 years as our food supply would disappear.

"The female honey bees are the workers of the hive. First, they learn to babysit, then they learn the construction trade...."

"...Bees are the only other species, to date, that have been shown to communicate with symbolic language—that is, they can 'talk' about details of something that is not present. (We note that psychologists dispute the use of the terms 'symbolic' being applied to any non-human communication systems, but bee scientists regularly apply this term to describe bee language.)..."

The bee dances have been known for decades, and we're still learning more about them. I was quite interested in this article, as a pretty good look at one part of the study of bees.

And, bees and how they communicate opens fascinating - if vague - possibilities about how non-human intelligence might work.

"Newfound Planet Might Be Near Death" (August 26, 2009)

"A newly discovered planet that whips around its star in less than a day may have been found mere cosmic moments before its demise.

"The planet, WASP-18b, is one of the 'hot Jupiter' class of planets that are huge in size (10 times the mass of Jupiter in this case), but orbit very close to their stars. Their very existence was surprising to astronomers when the first of them were found a few years back. Now they've become common discoveries.

But this scorched, gaseous world is only one of two known exoplanets that orbits its star in less than one Earth day (0.94 days to be exact). Coupled with its hefty mass, this leads to strong gravitational tugs between the planet and its star, WASP-18. (WASP stands for the Wide Angle Search for Planets, run by several universities in Britain.)...

WASP-18b is likely to fall into its sun quite soon - assuming that our current mathematical models for gravitation, hydrodynamics, and other factors are spot-on. Or, maybe something weird is holding the planet up.

Either way, there's a lot to be learned from observing it.

Somewhat-related posts:
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