The Issus Bug’s “Mechanical” Gears

gears

Well Wonderguests, Nature has done it again! Humans with microscopes have recently discovered the use of organic moving gears on a life form. This find proves that, while humans are a resourceful bunch, the natural process of evolution has accomplished a great deal more than we previously thought. In this instance a clock-like mechanism was first created by a creature other than humans.

Related article: Butterflies Drink Turtle Tears

To find these mechanical gears we have to take a close – very close- look at the Issus insect. This little bugger is most common in Europe and the surrounding area. It spends a lot of time living off of the precious phloem sap from plants like the European climbing Ivy. Generally speaking, the Issus are considered to be nondescript and rather uninteresting but, if you look closely, you’ll find a whole lot more than you expected. Specifically the use of mechanical gears. If you expect to find these gears on just any of the Issus insects you’ll be sorely disappointed.

The Issus nymphs, or insect “children,” use the gears in a similar sort of way that people use training wheels to ride bikes. At a certain point they no longer need them for balance. From the published abstract in Science magazine:

The nymphs, but not adults, have a row of cuticular gear (cog) teeth around the curved medial surfaces of their two hindleg trochantera. The gear teeth on one trochanter engaged with and sequentially moved past those on the other trochanter during the preparatory cocking and the propulsive phases of jumping. Close registration between the gears ensured that both hindlegs moved at the same angular velocities to propel the body without yaw rotation. At the final molt to adulthood, this synchronization mechanism is jettisoned.

These gears encourage proper jumping from the adolescent Issus bug. Without the organic apparatus, the nymphs would rotate uncontrollably along their y-axis (see Yaw Rotation). This would cause the Issus younglings to land facing a different direction.

The strangest part is how effective the gears are! From the University of Cambridge website:

The gears in the Issus hind-leg bear remarkable engineering resemblance to those found on every bicycle and inside every car gear-box.  Each gear tooth has a rounded corner at the point it connects to the gear strip; a feature identical to man-made gears such as bike gears – essentially a shock-absorbing mechanism to stop teeth from shearing off.

Related Article: Surprises of the Amazon

To get a better idea of exactly how these gears work, check out this video! It truly is amazing that such a mechanism can exist in an organic setting.

 

Sources:

http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/functioning-mechanical-gears-seen-in-nature-for-the-first-time
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6151/1254.full
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedera_helix
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Issus_(genus)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phloem
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yaw_(rotation)

Dome Homes: Virtually Indestructible

If someone held a gun to my head and screamed, “Quick! Pick the dumbest animated TV character of all time RIGHT NOW!” I’d probably panic (and cry) but ultimately go with Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants. I’d like to think a portion of you readers would agree with me—maybe pat me on the back and console me, y’know? Thanks, readers. It’s good to know you have my back.

I don’t watch the show, so I could be wrong…but I seem to always walk in on someone watching it at the exact moment Patrick is saying something ridiculously stupid. This seems to be expected. On one occasion, however, he and Spongebob had an argument (or domestic dispute—they’re dating or something, right?) and stormed off to their separate residences. That’s when I realized: Patrick lives in a dome home!

From a scientific perspective, dome homes make so much sense it’s a wonder we haven’t all evolved into bubble-based communities like the 90’s had envisioned*. They can withstand most, if not all, natural disasters, are highly energy efficient, and they also require less maintenance with less building materials.

The single biggest reason for living in a dome home is its great super power: it can withstand just about any natural disaster. I really can’t explain this better than with this quote from Valerie Sigler, a dome home resident (emphasis mine):

As we were building the dome, Tropical Storm Isadore came ashore and left a mess, but no damage. Then, in 2004, Hurricane Ivan slammed into Pensacola Beach wreaking enough havoc that it was called Ivan, The Terrible. Although many of my neighbors’ houses were piles of rubble or completely washed away, the dome suffered no structural damage. The Dome’s front staircase was designed to break away (which it did) to avoid damage to the actual structure. The 2005 hurricane season brought several storms to our shore: Tropical Storm Arlene in June; Hurricane Dennis in July; and Katrina in August. Hurricane Dennis was an extremely damaging storm to Pensacola Beach. Much to the community’s dismay, many of the repaired homes and buildings that made it through Ivan were decimated by Dennis. Again, the Dome of a Home suffered no structural damage.

For those keeping track, that was a shit ton of storms that hit Sigler’s area! Holy shit, is there any reason her neighbors didn’t uproot everything and go dome immediately after the Sigler’s house gave Isadore the middle finger?!

From Dome of a Home, we get this little gem:

Since there is no roof to lift off and no straight walls for the tornado to build pressure against, domes are virtually tornado proof.

As if that wasn’t enough, since there is no shingling and your roof isn’t being blown away by tornadoes and the like, dome homes are essentially maintenance-free. Dome homes can be made of various materials. Treehugger.com has noted that with the polyurethane dome kits (they come in pieces to be assembled and can be built in 7 days by 3 or 4 people)

Construction of the Dome House does not produce any waste, nor does it involve any deforestation.

Generally speaking, in non-tropical/beach areas, dome homes are about comparable in price to traditional homes. However, the savings over time are substantial. Things like energy costs, for example:

Geodesic domes use up to 50% less energy than a traditionally built home. Since surface area is minimized compared to the interior volume, these structures hold in plenty of heat as long as their walls are thick and well-insulated. In warm weather, the chimney effect is created, and hot air is drawn up and out of the structure as long as it’s properly ventilated.

Just for a little perspective:

In Alaska, the 8000 square foot Trinity Christian Center has an average heating bill of $72.

So maybe the real idiots are all of us schmucks who don’t live in half-circle structures. Or possibly the sponge who lives underwater in a freaking pineapple!

 

*To be fair, is there anything the 90’s envisioned that the 2000’s didn’t severely under-deliver on?

 

Sources
Wikipedia: Patrick Star
Advantages of Domes
Living Small, Cheap and Simple. Try a Dome House
Geodesic Dome Homes