A Conversation for Ask h2g2

What did you learn today? (TIL)

Post 181

The Left Reverend Doktor Baron Grim

This one really surprised me. All my life, I've lived with the threat of fire ants. I distinctly remember a moment when I was maybe 4, when I stepped on a fire ant mound, they ran up my pants legs, and then began "biting". My parents ran over, pulled off my pants and proceeded to beat the ants off my legs with the pants. I was "bitten" many dozens of times.


All my life, I have believe that fire ants' BITES are what causes so much pain. I've often heard that their "bite" contains formic acid, and that's what stings so much.


But that's not what's happening. Yes, fire ants do bite, but just to hang on. They also STING, just like a wasp, with a stinger extending from the end of their abdomens.


http://petapixel.com/2019/08/06/scientist-captures-incredible-1000fps-close-up-of-ants-injecting-venom/


What did you learn today? (TIL)

Post 182

The Left Reverend Doktor Baron Grim

Oh, and it's not formic acid either. Their venom is comprised of mostly oily alkaloids with a small amount of toxic proteins mixed in.


What did you learn today? (TIL)

Post 183

Orcus

Depends on the ants. Formic acid got its name from ants (formica in Latin) - so some species assuredly do use it in their bites/stings. But yeah a really nasty fire-ant I expect does use something more potent.

I worked with a guy who sprayed himself on his arm with neat formic acid once - it burned him - but it wasn't all that bad. If a tiny insect is doing that much damage then it's got to be something worse.


What did you learn today? (TIL)

Post 184

The Left Reverend Doktor Baron Grim

Yes, most ants do spray or otherwise deliver formic acid with their bites.

I miss the big red ants we used to have along the Texas Gulf Coast until the fire ants eradicated them. Compared to the little fire ants, these things were HUGE. I would occasionally, purposely let a red ant bite me as it was merely irritating rather than painful. I've even heard lore that these red ants can be used as makeshift sutures by picking them up, placing their pincers on either side of a cut, letting them bite, then pinching their heads off, leaving them pinching the cut closed. I hope this is true, it's just so wild.



What did you learn today? (TIL)

Post 185

Orcus

:D. Perhaps a bit grim and and needle and thread is probably easier but I like the picture.


What did you learn today? (TIL)

Post 186

The Left Reverend Doktor Baron Grim

I found a short demo.
http://youtu.be/FFGcssKc4gk

smiley - antsmiley - antsmiley - ant


What did you learn today? (TIL)

Post 187

The Left Reverend Doktor Baron Grim

This one I find fascinating in how our brains so easily "confuse the map for the territory" as they say.

Quick! Which planet is closest to the Earth?



You think you know. Or you think you know between two obvious choices. It has to be either Mars or Venus right!? (Some might argue that our Moon is actually a dwarf planet and that the Earth and Moon are a binary planet system, but that's another discussion.)

Right now you're probably wondering how could the answer be anything other than Mars or Venus. And, at times, either of those answers are correct.

But most often, the correct answer is Mercury!

Let's ask another question. Which planet is closest to Jupiter (or Saturn or Neptune or Uranus)? Most often, the answer is still Mercury.

We easily forget that the planets are extremely rarely aligned in a neat row, that our Solar System is a three dimensional array. When planets are on opposite or even at other oblique angles to each other, they are likely farther apart than either of their orbital distances. And since Mercury is near the center of every other planet's orbit (near the Sun), Mercury is most often closer to any planet than any other planet.

CGP Grey explains this better than I can here:

http://youtu.be/SumDHcnCRuU


What did you learn today? (TIL)

Post 188

Orcus

Sure, but who thought that any other planet than Mercury was ever closer to the sun? smiley - erm


What did you learn today? (TIL)

Post 189

Orcus

(wow did I misread your post there - sorry smiley - doh)


What did you learn today? (TIL)

Post 190

Orcus

Yeah when people talk about relative distances from the Earth, really they're talking about the mean average orbital distance from the Sun.


What did you learn today? (TIL)

Post 191

Caiman raptor elk - Yes, but what if the box is REALLY big?

That's mean!


What did you learn today? (TIL)

Post 192

Orcus

I'm in the mode smiley - winkeye


Key: Complain about this post

What did you learn today? (TIL)

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more