Sunday, August 07, 2005

Things I learnt today

On holiday, I had occasion to be bothered by a cranefly. Thats a daddy long legs, for those who prefer the unscientific name (makes them sounds like minature flying gangsters to me, but hey, whatever you want to think), or those freaky long legged things. As you might have noticed, they share the obsession with moths of heading towards lights. This can be frustrating when one has a single lamp, near ones head, and the damn things keep flying into you. This one was not too bad, it merely decided to fly repeatedly into the ceiling- clearly it evolved in a world in which any upwards obstacle could be dealt with by flying at it repeatedly. They must serve spiders well, although thinking about it I am fairly sure I saw a spider web up the ceiling earlier, so how it managed to avoid getting trapped I do not know.

However, craneflies occasionally have a bizzare habit, in that with the light switched off, they will continue their futile upwards progress, meaning as I attempted to go to sleep I got to hear the slightly disturbing noise of its frail body hitting the ceiling. Frequently.

I decided to research craneflies, apparently they are very succesful creatures, and are also have amazing facts about them (well, according to this site anyway). It did not mention the thing about bright lights, and this being one of the things that had bothered me during childhood (including WHY is the sky blue, how do fridges work, and what kind of weather causes snow or hail), I decided to research it.

Well, according to the department of energy, we don't actually know! There is a theory that particularly bright moonlight would help them to navigate, but... the moon moves about, doesn't it? I mean surely as a method of navigation, heading towards a not necessarily stationary object is not the best. Perhaps craneflies live short enough lives that they can breed in one place, then fly off in a circle to get food, coming back again to breed and then probably die. And moths too. I doubt this can be true- surely relying on the moon to navigate is a deeply unreliable method, especially in somewhere like the UK, which is overcast pretty much all the time. Which is probably why it isn't a completely accepted theory.

So yeah, those are the deep thoughts that occured to me while in the lake district. I'm thinking wordsowrth probably had more productive lines of thought than I did. But then, he's a poet, and I am a scientist. Well, mathematician, but in a way thats the purest science. Or at least, thats what we like to snobbishly claim.


At 3:32 pm, Blogger Kirbie said...

I spent today researching spiders, well not all of today - i mean I spent a small amount of time reseraching spiders today. Interesting coincidence perhaps.


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