“The Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and magnetic fields. But every kind of animal, including humans, is enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble, perceiving but a tiny sliver of our immense world,” writes Ed Yong in “An Immense World.” We will explore parts of the bubble Dr. Yong is describing. Courting peacocks create airflow patterns they can sense with their crest feathers. Butterflies taste with their feet. The naked mole rat is insensitive to the pain of acids and capsaicin. Treehoppers communicate by sending vibrations through the plants on which they stand, which can resemble the songs of birds, monkeys, or musical instruments. Black ghost knife fish produce their own electric fields, which they use to sense the world around them. Bumble bees can sense the electric fields of flowers. This class will examine such marvels through the lens of the physics that govern them. Yong’s book is recommended, but not required.
|NOTE: Two sections of this course are being offered at the same day/time as a hybrid: one on Zoom and one in-person.