Universe In A Grain Of Sand


  The April 2010 issue of National Geographic recounts research undertaken by John Bush and David Hu into the locomotion of those bugs that stroke silently across the surfaces of ponds and lakes – water striders.  Until these MIT grad students* looked into it, the thinking was that the insects created tiny waves that propelled them forward.

  That theory was first compromised by “Denny’s Paradox” which showed that wave propagation could not account for the movement of baby water striders because legs of the newly hatched are too short to make waves.  Applying mathematical analysis to high speed photography Bush and Hu found the truth to be entirely different. 

  The surface tension of the water allows the bugs to stand upon it without poking through.  Essentially, each foot makes an indentation in the surface much as would a human foot upon a trampoline thus also similarly imparting energy thereto.  Their middle legs use this energy to make themselves sort of bounce forward. 

  This reminds me of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.  It is the impression of matter, such as the earth, upon the fabric of space-time that makes for the motion of heavenly bodies.  In a sense, the moon rolls around the rim of the depression in the universe made by our little blue planet.  And us around the sun etc. 

  Just as the three dimensions of a pond develop energy by the actions of a bug upon it, so do the four of our universe by virtue of our presence in them.

  I think.

*Their work was first published in an MIT newsletter 8/6/03 and in the journal “Nature” the following day.

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