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10 Jun, 12 tweets, 8 min read
Are the screaming BroodX cicadas driving you nuts? Wonder how such tiny insects even make such a racket? You’ve come to the right place! I study how insects make and hear sound. By the end of this I hope I can show what biophysical marvels they are! #DBIOTweetorial @NatashaMhatre
So what is sound? It’s a disturbance in a medium, generated by a moving object. In this cool gif, by @drussellpsu, you can you see a grey bar moving back and forth within a pipe. The air in the pipe is pushed around, and the disturbance within it (sound) travels through the air.
So anything that moves makes a sound?

Yup, pretty much! The world is full of it: the wind shakes leaves, they rustle; tires vibrate because of friction, and they rumble.

But how ‘loud’ the sound is depends on quite a few things!

And insects use physics to be loud! For one they have a singing body part which vibrates with a strong resonance like a tuning fork! Wings in the case of crickets or the whole abdomen in the case of cicadas!
GIF by @drussellpsu
One hurdle is smol-ness! Their singing wings can be as tiny as a 1/10th the wavelength of the sound they are making. This leads to an ‘acoustic short circuit’: opposite phase waves from either side of the wing cancel out, making them tres inefficient.
Not to be outdone by physics, they have a trick up their sleeves. They make a tool! They use baffles to prevent wave interference! Engineers use them too, but the bugs were first!
I wrote a whole thread about how insect tool use gets too little love!

Loudness, though, is a concept about ‘perception’, so it’s a two-way street. A bug is only loud or soft with respect to the listener!
First off, insect ears are weird and wonderful! Insects have evolved ears at least 17 times all on all these body parts! bit.ly/3iujEEc
As you can imagine from this diversity, they are all a bit different in how they work. One theme unites many of them: our friend resonance! Like their singing structures, their ears are also like tuning forks, resonating to the sound of their own species. bit.ly/3xbBRuw
Thus insect ears aren’t willy-nilly listening to everything. They are tuning into a particular frequency band and rejecting other sounds. They are tapping into a deep principle in biology where sensors are matched to the stimulus statistics.
What if the insect wants to listen at many different frequencies, say for mates in one band and predators in another? Then they make ears which can do frequency analysis using travelling waves! In a way that is very similar to human ears!!!
And last but not least, there are tree cricket ears with their built in amplifer! (bit.ly/3cvtDW4) When the temperature goes up, males sing at a higher frequency, and that amplifier retunes too always keeping track of the right frequency! (bit.ly/2SndSts)
That’s it from me folks! This has been your bug sound #DBIOTweetorial! Your host today, Natasha Mhatre

Remember, bugs are cool! And so is physics and all the amazing physicists that make up the awesome #EngageDBIO team!

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More from @ApsDbio

3 Jun
It's #DBIOtweetorial time, with your host @gibbological from @isbsci. Today, you'll get some facts about the ~10^13 microbes that call your gut home. By the end, I hope that you'll see yourself as much more than a mere human. You are an ecosystem! #EngageDBIO #microbiome 💩🦠🧑‍🔬
In the womb, we are sterile (obgyn.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.111…). At birth, our mothers (and surrounding environment) act as our 'sour-dough starter culture,' inoculating us with hundreds-to-thousands of species. The exact composition of this 'microbiome' is as unique to us as our genome.
Topologically speaking, humans are doughnuts. The entire outside of this doughnut is *covered* in microbes (mostly bacteria). Most of our microbes live in the colon. There are about 3*10^13 human cells and 4*10^13 bacterial cells in the body (doi.org/10.1371/journa…).
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27 May
It's #DBIOtweetorial time! Your host is Saad Bhamla @BhamlaLab. Today we'll learn about 10 ultrafast movements in organisms - from single cells to multicellular beasts. We hope to get you thinking engg+bio+physics of extreme movements.
#EngageDBIO #UltrafastOrganisms.
Contrary to common perception, cheetahs and falcons are not the fastest animals. Mantis shrimps for example can use a saddle-shaped spring to hammer at ~100,000 m/s^2. This is so blazing fast, it cavitates surrounding fluid. nature.com/articles/42881…
Trap jaw ants use their spring-loaded jaws to jump at faster acceleration of 10^6 m/s^2 in 0.06 ms. Faster than the blink of an eye or a bullet from a gun !! How to build robots at this scale and speed remains an open challenge. pnas.org/content/103/34…
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20 May
It's #DBIOtweetorial time! Your host, Wallace Marshall. Welcome to 10 Crazy Things Cells Do. We hope to get you thinking about the complexity of cells + challenges in learning physical principles that underly cell behavior. Let's get started!
#EngageDBIO #XtremeCellBiology.
Cells can be really big. Many cells are small, but some are gigantic. Each little "plant" in this picture is a single algal cell, Acetabularia, more than 10 cm long. What determines the size of cells? bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.11…
Cells can walk. You think of cells creeping along on a glass slide, but cells can move in more complex ways. @BEuplotes studies cells that can walk using 14 tiny feet. biorxiv.org/content/10.110…
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13 May
Hello, it’s a gorgeous Thursday! Time for a #DBIOtweetorial by Eleni Katifori, commissioned by the awesome folks at #engageDBIO! Let's get sciencing!
Large organisms cannot survive without a circulatory system. Diffusion is too slow to provide enough nutrients. For this reason, plants, animals and fungi have evolved complex irrigation systems.
Circulatory systems roughly follow some simple design principles. They are composed of wide vessels, “highways” for long distance transport, and smaller, distributary channels, which do the actual delivery of the load. Similar function can result in similar design!
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6 May
It is Thursday, must be time for a #DBIOTweetorial, brought to you by @NavishWadhwa and Yuhai Tu. We will drop in the tweets over the next hour or so. Counting on you to comment, ask questions, have discussions…let’s show the world that biophysicists don’t hold back. #EngageDBIO
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First, a quick recap. Many bacteria swim by rotating helical flagella. Rotation of these flagella is powered by a highly complex bio-nanomachine, the flagellar motor. It is a full-on electric motor, complete with a stator, a rotor, a driveshaft, a universal joint, and bushings.
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29 Apr
Once again, it's a lovely Thursday! Time for a #DBIOtweetorial by Kim Reynolds @kimreynolds_lab commissioned by the awesome folks at #engageDBIO! Let's get sciencing!
An organism’s genome encodes the rules for how it looks, grows, and responds to the environment in a series of “A”s, “C”s, “G”s and “T”s:
The genes encode proteins – molecular “parts” that assemble into cellular systems. For example, we often depict proteins in metabolism as lines that interconvert chemical species inside the cell. These diagrams contain a lot of information, but can be difficult to understand.
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