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Posts Tagged "navigation"

Not bad science

Lost ants backtrack their steps

Ants would leave their nest to retrieve bits of cookie

Think about where you’ve been today, and how you found your way there. As humans, we use different navigational techniques at different times. You can probably think of some times that that you’ve relied more on heading in a particular direction, knowing roughly where a place is that you’re trying to get to (like ‘north’ [...]

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Observations

Dung Beetles Follow the Stars

dung beetle milky way stars orient straight path

The humble dung beetle makes its living rolling big balls of excrement to feed its offspring and itself. But this lowly occupation doesn’t mean the insect doesn’t have its eye on the skies—even when the sun goes down. Recent research has shown that African ball-rolling dung beetles (Scarabaeus satyrus) use strong light cues from the [...]

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Roots of Unity

10 Secret Trig Functions Your Math Teachers Never Taught You

A diagram with a unit circle and more trig functions than you can shake a stick at. The familiar sine, cosine, and tangent are in blue, red, and tan, respectively.

On Monday, the Onion reported that the “Nation’s math teachers introduce 27 new trig functions.” It’s a funny read. The gamsin, negtan, and cosvnx from the Onion article are fictional, but the piece has a kernel of truth: there are 10 secret trig functions you’ve never heard of, and they have delightful names like “haversine” [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Practice Makes Perfect: Endangered Whooping Cranes Rely on Social Learning for Migration

whooping crane mueller

Are birds’ migration routes mainly the result of instinct or do they need practice, learning, and experience? New research on endangered whooping cranes suggests that social learning plays a critical role.

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The Thoughtful Animal

Depth Perception Didn’t Evolve for Watching The Avengers in 3D

visualcliff

Our ability to perceive all three dimensions, due in part to having two eyes on the front of our heads with overlapping visual fields, allows us to enjoy 3D summer blockbusters, but may have originally evolved for a simpler purpose: avoiding falling to our deaths. If you’re going to be able to effectively navigate the [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Rats, Bees, Brains, and The Best Science Writing Online 2012

I’m still playing a bit of catch-up after last week’s AZA conference. In the meantime, The Best Science Writing Online 2012 was published this week, which includes a piece I originally posted in July, 2011. In honor of the publication, I’m reposting that piece, below. Also, check out my new fortnightly column at BBC Future, [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

How Do Octopuses Navigate?

east pacific red octopus

Getting around is complicated business. Every year, animals traverse miles of sky and sea (and land), chasing warmth or food or mates as the planet rotates and the seasons change. And with such precision! Some animals rely on visual landmarks, others on subtle changes in magnetic fields, and yet others match their internal clocks with [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Sensing Magnets: Navigation in Desert Ants

Ant on stilts

The more scientists discover about desert ants, the more impressive they seem. Decades of research have established that ants use path integration – an innate form of mental trigonometry – in order to navigate the visually featureless environments that are the salt pans of Tunisia. They do this by calibrating a mental clock based on [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Desert Ants Are Better Than Most High School Students At Trigonometry

Ant on stilts

This marks the 500th post in the history of The Thoughtful Animal! To mark the occasion, I thought I’d revise and repost the post that started it all. This wasn’t the first post I ever wrote, but it was the first post I wrote (back when I was blogging at WordPress) that got any sort [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Rats, Bees, and Brains: The Death of the “Cognitive Map”

Humans, just like all other animals, face the same problem every day: how do we get around the world? I don’t mean how do we walk, swim, crawl, or fly. I mean, how do we navigate? If I leave in search of food, how do I find my way back home? Here’s one method I [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Monday Pets: Dumb Guinea Pigs? (The I Just Got Back From APS Edition)

ResearchBlogging.org

Zen recently wrote mentioned this study on his blog, so I thought it was time to dredge it out of the archives. Also, I’ve just returned from APS (see my daily recaps here here and here), and I am TIRED. Domestic animals and their wild counterparts can be different in big ways; there can be [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Who Moved My Garden? Spatial Learning in the Octopus

ResearchBlogging.org

Say you’re visiting Los Angeles and you have a sudden craving for Chinese food. Since you are only visiting, you might not be aware that nothing is open past, like, 10pm (not even coffee houses), but you get in your rental car and go driving around in search of your Chinese feast anyway. You try [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Drive-Through or Eat Out? How An Octopus Decides

ResearchBlogging.org

It’s amazing how much you can learn about an animal’s mind by a simply watching it. Video 1: Gratuitous video of octopuses never hurt anyone. Maybe this will sate the Pharyngulites.

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