Silk Pavilion

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What would it be like to have 6,500 silkworms spin a house for you?

Mediated Matter Group used a combination of art and mathematics to create a unique structure made by computers and silkworms.

MMG studied silkworms spinning their cocoons and silk on different hexagonal platforms.  You can watch some of the videos of those tests;  time lapse photography of caterpillars spinning silk at high speed is kind of hypnotic.   Inspired by silkworms’ ability to generate a 3-dimensional cocoon out of a single silken thread, the researchers created an algorithm to make a computer think like a silkworm.  They then used that model to instruct a robot to weave a structure.

The language they use to describe this really cool project is…well, pretty dry academic speak, actually.   Here’s an example:

 The primary structure was created of 26 polygonal panels made of silk threads laid down by a CNC (Computer-Numerically Controlled) machine.  Overall density variation was informed by the silkworm itself deployed as a biological “printer” in the creation of a secondary structure…. Specifically, we explored the formation of non-woven fiber structures generated by the silkworms as a computational schema for determining shape and material optimization of fiber-based surface structures..”

Skip that. Just watch. I love the idea of caterpillars as 3D printers.  Make sure you watch all the way to the credits, because it’s way cool.

Random Factoid:

dorsal heart

In this video and the one I linked earlier, you might notice that the caterpillars themselves appear to be sort of strobing.  What you are seeing is their heart beating!

All insects have one long “heart” that runs along their back.  These caterpillars are more transparent than the adult insect shown in this diagram, so we can actually see inside.  When the video is sped up, the rhythmic contractions of the heart turn into a rapid flicker.  You can even see how the contractions pulse up the back of the insect in a wave!

Harlem Shake: Butterfly Style

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The latest internet Meme is the Harlem Shake, and I think this is one of the best versions. A little background:

“Harlem Shake” (not  the hip hop dance style) is the title of a 2012 heavy bass instrumental track produced by Baauer. In February 2013, the song spawned a series of dance videos that begin with a masked individual dancing alone in a group before suddenly cutting to a wild dance party featuring the entire group.

And here you go: Harlem shake of the butterflies.

What you are looking at is a bunch of chrysalids, or the pupal stage of a butterfly where it transitions from a caterpillar into an winged adult. They are still able to move and respond to stimuli in this stage, even though they lack functional legs. They are commonly reared like this in butterfly houses.