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  • Science Visualized

    How math helps explain the delicate patterns of dragonfly wings

    The dainty veins gracing the wings of dragonflies and other insects are like fingerprints: Each wing displays a distinct pattern. A randomized mathematical process may help explain how certain thin filaments, called secondary veins, form these complex patterns, a new study finds.

    Insect wings consist of two types of veins, both of which provide structural support (SN: 6/24/17, p. 5)....

    09/23/2018 - 08:00 Animals, Biophysics
  • Reviews & Previews

    Smart plants can teach us a thing or two

    The Revolutionary Genius of PlantsStefano MancusoAtria Books, $30

    More than 200 years ago, French botanist René Desfontaines instructed a student to monitor the behavior of Mimosa pudica plants as he drove them around Paris in a carriage. Mimosa pudica quickly closes its leaves when touched — presumably as a defense mechanism. Desfontaines was interested in the plants’ response to...

    09/18/2018 - 07:00 Plants, Evolution, Biophysics
  • News in Brief

    Here’s how clumps of honeybees may survive blowing in the wind

    A stiff breeze is no match for a clump of honeybees, and now scientists are beginning to understand why.

    When scouting out a new home, the bees tend to cluster together on tree branches or other surfaces, forming large, hanging clumps which help keep the insects safe from the elements. To keep the clump together, individual honeybees change their positions, fine-tuning the cluster’s...

    09/17/2018 - 11:00 Biophysics
  • News

    Soaring spiders may get cues from electric charges in the air

    Spiders may lack wings, but they aren’t confined to the ground. Under the right conditions, some spider species will climb to a high point, release silk strands to form a parachute, and float away on the breeze. Buoyed by air currents, they’ve been known to drift kilometers above Earth’s surface, and even to cross oceans to reach new habitats (SN: 2/4/17, p. 12).

    Now, new research...

    07/05/2018 - 16:48 Animals, Biophysics
  • Feature

    Meet the speedsters of the plant world

    Somewhere in the wetlands of South Carolina, a buzzing fly alights on a rosy-pink surface. As the fly explores the strange scenery, it unknowingly brushes a small hair sticking up like a slender sword. Strolling along, the fly accidentally grazes another hair. Suddenly, the pink surface closes in from both sides, snapping shut like a pair of ravenous jaws. The blur of movement lasts only a...

    05/16/2018 - 12:11 Plants, Biophysics, Physics