Livestream event with Oxplore – the University of Oxford’s digital outreach portal – discussing the BIG question “is school the best place to learn?”. Panelists include geologist Dr Brooke Johnson, historian Dr Sian Pooley, and education specialist Dr Susila Davis.
Oxplore – the University of Oxford’s digital outreach portal – has recently reached its 50th BIG question! To celebrate we’ll be hosting a special livestream debate at 2pm on March 29th which you can join for FREE by registering here.
If you’re not already excited (and trust me you really should be), then here are some of my favourite highlights from the live events so far to get you in the mood!
How fast should an animal be able to move? And why are the biggest animals, which pack more muscle, not the fastest? That’s what Yale scientist Walter Jetz was wondering, so he and his colleagues looked at hundreds of animal species and have come up with a new theory that successfully puts a speed limit on most species…
- There is a theoretical maximum speed that is expected to increase with body size, however, in order to actually get to any speed you need to first accelerate, and larger animals take much longer to do so – much like a truck accelerating to 60mph compared to a motorbike or car.
- Large bodied animals simply do not have sufficient energy to reach their theoretical maximum speed.
- The general distribution is a ‘hump-shape’ as shown in the plots below. Maximum speed increases with size until we reach a critical mass beyond which the maximum speed reached starts to decrease.
- Data for over 450 species were included in the study, across land, air and water.
- The study provides insight into evolutionary trade-offs for different species as they evolve to increase their chances of survival.
You can listen to the full interview with the Naked Scientists here.
Image copyright Dawn Key
Carol asks: Can ants feel pain?
I went crawling around for the answer with York University’s Eleanor Drinkwater…
- Ants can sense that they’ve been harmed and react but this is different to actually feeling pain
- Nociception is the sensory nervous system informing the brain that you’ve been hurt, whereas pain is an unpleasant sensation with a negative emotional response
- One can occur without the other eg. when playing sports you often don’t realise that you are injured until afterwards, or people who have lost limbs experience phantom limb pain
- Robots can also be programmed to experience nociception without experiencing pain, for example in the video game The Sims characters will jump around if they’re burnt by fire
- We currently know very little about insect expressions of pain, but we do know that the pain expression systems are different to those in mammals, meaning that insects are likely to experience pain in a different way to humans
- In short, the jury is still out, so best to be nice to any ants that you may come across!
Part of the Naked Scientists Question of the Week series – you can listen to the full version here.