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Computational Aspects of the Murder Hornet
An Engineering Overview
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I have long been a partisan of insects in general, and hornets in particular, as exemplars of the most varied, imaginative and sometimes, in a correct use of an overused word, weird design and engineering in the live world. There is more of the unlikely, preposterous, and inexplicable in our six-footed cocitizens than in all the vertebrates combine. By comparison, we humans are a mundane and unimaginative lot.

None of this leaps immediately to consciousness. Think of hornets in terms of IT and mechanical engineering, optics, and aerodynamics, and they will concentrate the attention.

A complete description of a murder hornet would be sufficient to allow an engineer of enough ability to construct one from the description alone. The description would consist of layer upon layer of great complexity, biochemical, molecular biological, cellular, and, subsuming all, genomic. We will today consider only the anatomical, physiological, and IT aspects.

The murder hornet represents a very high degree of precision, miniaturized, optimized, multidisciplinary integrated engineering with a autonomous maintenance and energy management. Human endeavor has produced nothing resembling the hornet’s elegance of design.

Consider some of its systems individually:

First, the hornet perfectly controls six multi-jointed legs, allowing it easily to walk over uneven surfaces, even while hanging upside down. This requires coordination and sensory feedback. Any robotics engineer will attest to the difficulty of doing this.

Second, its flight system allows it to hover, engage in aerobatics, and fly at forty miles an hour. This requires adjusting the rate of wing beat and angle of attack of the wings. This is not simple. It also requires precisely located muscles anchored to the body and attached to the wings. These latter are seen to consist of a thin flight membrane reinforced by a network of supporting elements. The design produces a wing both strong but light.

Third, the sting. This consists of a biochemical mechanism to produce the venom, a sac to hold it, muscles to express the venom through the stinger, muscles to force the stinger into the victim, and the stinger itself. These must exist simultaneously and function in coordination in order to work. Absent any one, the system is useless

Fourth, the digestive system with its components and its complex biochemistry.

Fifth, vision. We tend to think of eyes as being of little interest since we all have them and most of us have a very simple idea of their function and complexity. This is illusory.

The hornet’s compound eyes consist of large numbers of intricately designed ommatidia, I don’t know how many the hornet has—quite a few as its eyes are large–but the dragon fly has thirty thousand.

Here a point that could be made of any of the insect’s systems. On examination, the hornet’s eyes are complicated and exquisitely engineered. The description below largely is from the Wikipedia and heavily edited to remove technical details, which makes it a bit awkward. Follow the link for the whole thing.

“The compound eyes of … insects are composed of units called ommatidia (singular: ommatidium). An ommatidium contains a cluster of photoreceptor cells surrounded by support cells and pigment cells. The outer part of the ommatidium is overlaid with a transparent cornea. Each ommatidium is innervated by one axon bundle (usually consisting of 6–9 axons, depending on the number of rhabdomeres) and provides the brain with one picture element. The brain forms an image from these independent units…

“Ommatidia are typically hexagonal in cross-section…. At the outer surface, there is a cornea, below which is a pseudocone that acts to further focus the light. …

“Each ommatidium consists of nine photoreceptor cells (primary and secondary pigment cells. and organized into a different tier. These “R cells” tightly pack the ommatidium. The portion of the R cells at the central axis of the ommatidium collectively form a light guide, a transparent tube, called the rhabdom.

“A hexagonal lattice of pigment cells insulates the ommatidial core from neighboring ommatidia to optimize coverage of the visual field…affecting the acuity.

The “…advantage of this arrangement is that the same visual axis is sampled from a larger area of the eye, thereby increasing sensitivity by a factor of seven, without increasing the size of the eye or reducing its acuity. Achieving this has also required the rewiring of the eye such that the axon bundles are twisted through 180 degrees (re-inverted), and each rhabdomere is united with those from the six adjacent ommatidia that share the same visual axis. Thus, at the level of the lamina – the first optical processing center of the insect brain – the signals are input in exactly the same manner as in the case of a normal apposition compound eye, but the image is enhanced…..”

Again, complex, miniaturized, optimized, integrated, elegant.

Sixth, the respiratory system consisting of spiracles, openings along the body, through which air enters and is pumped in and out by muscular contractions under control of timing and coordinating circuitry.

Seventh, the circulatory system, simple but requiring muscular contractions to pump hemolymph , as well as control circuitry.

Eighth, other sensory systems such as the antennae and auditory receptors, nerves detecting touch, three simple eyes (ocelli), etc.

Fitting all of these systems into an insect two inches long is a feat of engineering compaction orders of magnitude beyond current human possibility. Yet more astonishing, and hard to explain, is the IT aspect, the system integration and control to allow them to function seamlessly together.

To begin, the brain (for so we will call it) receives tens of thousands of what amount to pixels from two eyes and melds them to form an image. The brain must map this two-dimensional retinal information onto a three-dimensional world in real time since hornets do not characteristically run into things. This is not mathematically trivial.

Then the brain must interpret this information to decide what is going on in its environment, decide what to do about it, coordinate the action of legs, wings, perhaps stinger, mouth parts, housekeeping tasks such as respiration and digestion, on and on. This is a lot of computation.

How hard is a hornet’s information processing? Programmers working in assembly language think of processing in terms of lines of code. How many assembly language instructions would be needed to control the six legs, wings, armament, respiration, etc., and the integration of all of these to adapt to differing circumstances? While a hornet doesn’t use assembly language, the question points to the level of computation needed.

Finally, information storage. These insects come out of the egg knowing a great many things: How to build a fairly complex nest in cooperation with others, to include knowing how to make wood paste and how to place it. How to care for young and the queen, quite complicated. How to hunt and what to hunt (honey bees, for example). When and how to react to perceived threats to the nest.

Each of these breaks down into further complexity. The phrase, “Caring for the young and the queen” consists of seven words, but in practice involves many sub-tasks. Mating, done while flying (Think airline pilots and stewardesses) requires both agility and knowing how to do it.

Further, the brain allows considerable learning. Hornets fly far from the nest, often through forests, and return, necessarily having learned the way.

In IT terms, how many bits would be required to hold this information? Note that much of it must be graphic. Hornets know what honey bees look like, for example, and what other hornets look like and many other things. The brain and nervous system must be a quite good graphics processing unit. How is this storage accomplished? Note that this information is not learned, though they can learn things, but inborn. Stored how?

We have all heard the expression, “He can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.” The hornet can fly complexly, walk, process visual inputs, control its respiratory rhythm, envenom enemies, process other sensory inputs, all effortlessly and in coordination to manage housekeeping. They clearly have something paralleling the human autonomic nervous system. Does it break, as ours does, into sympathetic and parasympathetic branches? The hornet clearly has a voluntary system, being able to decide what to do according to environmental inputs.

Now, hardware. A hornet’s brain, somewhat distributed, consists of very little tissue. Wikipedia: A hornet’s brain “may contain fewer than one million brain cells, compared with the 86,000 million that make up a human brain.”

Nerve impulses in any organism travel at speeds orders of magnitude lower than those found in computers. The insect has slow wiring and little of it. How does such a minor brain manage to manage a highly complex hornet?

In other species, the problem gets worse. Consider these micro-ants, asquiles in Spanish, small enough that half a dozen could fit on a hornet’s eye. They are less sophisticated than hornets, blind, can’t fly. Yet they operate six legs, understand 3-space, build nests, reproduce, feed young and a queen, on and on. If a hornet has a million or fewer brain cells, how many do these ants have? How can their almost nonexistent nervous systems do all of this? This is engineering way above our pay grade.

 

Chronicles of a wild life in biker bars and the fleshpots of Bangkok, of years of solo hitchhiking across America, of a Southern boyhood of drag racing in old wrecks and guns and beer, of Marine Corps boot camp and Moon’s strange church, of scuba diving the deep walls of the Caribbean and cave diving in Mexico, of life on staff at Soldier of Fortune magazine and nine years as police reporter for the Washington Times in the weird, sad, and often unbelievable urban Petri dishes of the big cities. Politically incorrect and evilly funny, Fred takes no prisoners. He skews with murderous wit things he doesn’t like, which are many: pols, talking heads, officious do-gooders. He has a soft spot for things he does like, such as dogs, drunks, bar girls, and ambulance crews, of all of which he has known many. His work has appeared in Playboy, Harper’s, the Washington Post magazine an op-ed pages, and suchlike stations of the literary cross.

 
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  1. It’s been a long time since a column I liked by this guy. That was very interesting, and I’m sure we’ll get some more quantitative details on computer processing power vs what biology can do from some of the commenters.

    My one question is: Given an appropriate sized keyboard, could one of these hornets crank out a Fred Reed column on all things bad about Americans? I know they’ve got something against this one, as I’ve sprayed their nests with some heavy fire before. (Then, run like hell!)

    For a change, Peak Stupidity says “good column, Fred!”

  2. Hornets are pests. I spray them with some shit that quickly kills them. If you spend much time working from a ladder you learn to hate the little fuckers.

    • Replies: @showmethereal
    , @animalogic
  3. Doug1943 says:

    This is all mind-boggling enough. But the truly amazing thing is that all this incredible, co ordinated complexity just evolved, from next to nothing, via random mutations and natural selection.

    • Agree: MEH 0910, PJ London
    • Replies: @goldgettin
    , @showmethereal
  4. God works in wondrous ways Freddie.

    • Agree: showmethereal
  5. MEH 0910 says:

    Oak Tree and Wasp Eggs | Life in the Undergrowth | BBC Studios

    Wasp Deposits Parasitic Larvae Deep Inside Tree Trunk

    [MORE]

    Beautiful wasp zombifies cockroach

    • Replies: @Achmed E. Newman
  6. @MEH 0910

    I haven’t even watched yet, so why do I feel like getting out my 1 gallon gasoline can and some stick matches?

    • Replies: @MEH 0910
  7. @Doug1943

    “All this incredible,coordinated complexity just evolved,
    from next to nothing”?What’s “truly amazing” is how
    smart “you think” you are. Hasn’t your mind been
    boggled enough?Or,too much?No thing is nothing…
    This,seems to me,to be “something”.

    • Agree: showmethereal
    • Replies: @PJ London
  8. Ah, it’s Fred recycling his old “Intelligent Design” silliness after buffing off the religious coating. Well, why not… if it attracts eyeballs, it’ll have done its job.

    Now, for the content itself: if an engineer set out to “recreate” a glob of mud – to reproduce its exact color, smell, and flavor as well as the precise degree of its gloppiness, slipperiness, wetness, etc. with absolute, unyielding precision – it would cost millions or billions of dollars, assuming it can be done at all. So this “mundane human engineers” nonsense still bears the implicit smell of “what hath God wrought” – said deity being the classical “god of the gaps” who runs and hides like a cockroach in ever-shrinking dark corners whenever we “mundane humans” make yet another discovery and find “mundane” answers to yet another former “holy mystery”. For example, these days, we’ve got neural networks that replicate hive insect behavior with minimal computing resources (that just happened to be one of the training activities for one I was working on… nothing to do with Fred.) These days, that ANN predicts and prevents epileptic seizures by learning the patterns of electrical activity in the brain that precede them… somehow, your god didn’t get around to designing anything that wondrous, or useful to us humans. Wasps – nasty and ugly as they are – seem to be about his speed, though.

    So… there’s no engineering involved in ants or wasps, Fred. Just 150 million or so years of reproduction, with the ones that are more fit for their environment having a better chance of survival in it. Outside of that, your fake wonderment is the same as that of a puddle being amazed at how perfectly the ground was “created by the deity of puddles” to accommodate its exact shape.

    So give it up, old boy. Even the Catholic church (in fact, pretty much every religious institution except for the most abysmal fanatics) accepts evolution as the theory with the greatest amount of explanatory and predictive power for the natural world. About time for you to do some reading for comprehension rather than to cherry-pick specious arguments.

  9. @TheLaughingBuddha

    A wonderful reply with which I can find nothing to disagree.

    I still enjoyed the article. It showed how hard many seemingly simple things are to reproduce until they are. The great majority of people, including myself, even struggle to be wise after the event. What else could anybody expect? Nobody can know everything so we’re all ignorant even if we’re reluctant to accept magic as an hypothesis holding any meaning. [email protected]

  10. MadFiddler says: • Website

    We Humans tend to regard ourselves – collectively and individually – as the pinnacle of creation.
    Fred has reminded us with unusual grace that we are latecomers to the party, that other critters have refinements to their physiologic capacities mostly un-guessed, un-assayed and unappreciated.

    One point Fred does not address, which I have seen mentioned elsewhere, is the assumption that many of us make: that all brain cells of all critters are similar in scale. In fact, the size of brain cells may vary over an impressive range, and the number of dendrites and minute Axonal terminal tendrils emerging and branching from individual Neurons can number in scores, or hundreds, or possibly thousands. And each of those can be a connection to the terminal tendrils of other Neurons, so that the complexity of a tiny ant’s brain is not necessarily directly proportional to its diminutive size in comparison to the mass of a Human.

    I’m not arguing that the brains of insects are comparable to the complexity of human brains. But it is conspicuously obvious that they are fully functional for the astounding work they routinely accomplish. One wonders if portions of their brains exist in a neighboring dimension, so they don’t have to fit in those eentsy bitty noggins. ‹ =ºÞ

    Growing up in the fifties — even with mind-stretching conversations with folks like Fred in high school — I still swoon trying to wrap my head around the astounding range of orders of magnitude from the largest Groves of Thousands of Trees that are in fact ONE organism, or the cetaceans, down to the smallest living microbes.

    I’m not convinced that includes viruses, but what the hell do I know? I’ll probably be accused of being infinitesimaphobic or some such thing.

    The real question we need to address is: How’z cum if Humans have such Effing Huge Brains, we’re still such MORONS???

    ____________

    To another poster, have we humans created a computer that fits inside a volume the size of an Ant’s Head, that can do the computations you describe, and communicate them to other computers of like scale, and then coordinate with those other computers to operate the limbs and effectors of their mobile transporters to construct the hives? I sure haven’t heard of such a thing. Yes, flocking and schooling behavior can be mimicked by computers. Such reductive simplification doesn’t suggest that ants, fish, birds are stupid mindless biologic abaci (or “abacuses”) or electromechanical stimulus/response machines.

    Our computers, as sophisticated as they are, Still require the a TITANIC manufacturing base, tens of thousands of engineers and craftspeople to design and assemble them, tens of thousands more highly-trained coders and programmers, then the coordinated direction of scientists and researchers with decades of specialized training and study, and carefully prepared algorithms and data for the computer to consider.

    How many Trillions of Dollars and millions of person-hours did it require for humans to build even One of the autonomous Mars rovers? Not even considering any of the rest of the Space program efforts…

    As far as I know, we can’t just set a computer in a room with a selection of plants, soil, water, atmospheric air and sunshine, and expect the thing to construct a stinking BEEHIVE.

    It’s all very well to assert that our so-called “super-computers” can design a structure. But if they can’t accomplish the actual construction with the same restrictions on scale and energy efficiency AND complete Self-Sufficiency as the ants, it’s just one more itty bitty eentsy teentsy baby step for mankind.

    • Agree: Rogue
    • Replies: @TheLaughingBuddha
  11. It ain’t necessarily so…

  12. meamjojo says:

    Having watched all the Planet Earth variations on BBC America probably in excess of 50 times each, I have gained an appreciation for how smart many insects, fish and animals are!

    Have you seen that fish that bangs a clam held in its mouth against a piece of coral until the shell breaks and it can eat the clam? That’s use of tools. By a fish! Or the octopus that can camouflage itself in open water using bits of debris? Or the birds that build elaborate structures to obtain a mate?

    The Earth is a fascinating place, despite humans.

  13. @TheLaughingBuddha

    I’m not trying to start a fight…but,isn’t your 150 million year,or
    4.5 billion year,or 14 billion year argument just a little “specious”as well?
    How long till our star goes supernova?How much more “space junk in orbit”
    is TOO much?WHY would “life evolve” to create more than enough
    nuclear weaponry to destroy all life 8,000 x ? To starve 25 million per year?
    Must it be just a cold hard rock haphazardly isolated without design?
    Equating epileptic brain seizures with the vastness of the MILKY WAY galaxy
    is quite a …stretch, even for a self centered egotist of human proportion.

    • Replies: @TheLaughingBuddha
  14. Biff says:

    Nature always wins.

    I can’t count how many times over the years(especially as a child) I’ve been stung by a wide array of Bees, Wasps, and Hornets(got three yellow jackets to one leg at once). But just a few months ago I had a wasp nail me in my left shoulder – about an hour later I was in the hospital with anaphylaxis – Sick! You never know when…

    Nature always wins.

    • Replies: @Achmed E. Newman
  15. Savageone says:

    At last, an interesting post from Fred that explores a fascinating subject. But murder hornets can not put a rover on Mars. Neither could the Chinese if they hadn’t stolen our intellectual property.

  16. BuelahMan says:

    He skews with murderous wit things he doesn’t like, which are many: pols, talking heads, officious do-gooders.

    He must love him some jews.

  17. macilrae says:

    Much of what Fred relates runs through my mind every time I have to consider dispatching an insect – although I confess I don’t think too hard when it’s a mosquito – but if I can stoop to rescue some harmless critter, then I will.

    An old friend, working on vision research in insects, had an “at home” day in his institute where members of the public could come and gawk at presentations which, so it was hoped, would help justify their budget. My friend’s display happened to include a fly, immobilized and with electrodes planted in its eye to capture the rapid and fluctuating impulses generated when a bright light was directed at this luckless insect – presented as a loud audible tone of varying frequency and driving adjacent exhibitors crazy.

    A small crowd gathered and somebody asked “Is that the fly screaming?”

    There were journalists around so my friend had to carefully explain the whole point of what he was attempting to do.

    A really good piece, Fred.

  18. @TheLaughingBuddha

    An excellent riposte. Here’s where I am on this.
    The Science (may peace be upon him) tells us what happened a thousandth, a million even, of a second after the big bang. Not one of his priests (MPBUH) can say what happened a millionth of a second before this event which created all space,matter, time and energy. Any initiator (and there must have been one, at least to my simple mind) of such event passes as a God to me. Bishop Ussher tells us all was created 6025 years ago this October 23rd, (But how much faith can we have in a man who can’t spell his own name and is Irish to boot?)
    That’s a pretty good size Overton Window.
    I lean toward the evolutionary, nature is a hard mistress view of things, and have difficulty crediting the shifty character in the dirty old raincoat lurking at the fringe with a real actual plan.

    • Thanks: Achmed E. Newman
    • Replies: @TheLaughingBuddha
  19. @Biff

    I’m sorry you get stung, Biff, as wasps, and especially yellow jackets, pack a whelp! But, you’re a part of nature too, Biff. We’re armed with minds that can produce chemicals like powerful wasp/hornet spray. If it was at home, find out where those wasps are coming from and blast them. It always brings my adrenaline up.

    I got stung by a yellow jacket on the palm of my hand (he’d been on the ground). It itched for about a week afterwards, and that little hole stayed there for longer than that. There’s no reason for these creatures, especially mosquitos, fleas, and ticks, to be around. That makes one wonder too what the deal is … leans toward nature alone, I’d say.

    • Replies: @MEH 0910
    , @Adam Smith
  20. cestall says:

    Interesting, but with all politeness, so what? A leaf is equally astounding, as humans cannot make one from scratch. Nature just is more complex than our engineering abilities, but it’s had billions of years and trillions of specimens in each of them for trial and error. Our imagination-sparked brain has been around, maybe a half million years? Novices.

  21. MEH 0910 says:
    @Achmed E. Newman

    There’s no reason for these creatures, especially mosquitos, fleas, and ticks, to be around.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_drive

    A gene drive is a natural process[1] and technology of genetic engineering that propagates a particular suite of genes throughout a population[2] by altering the probability that a specific allele will be transmitted to offspring (instead of the Mendelian 50% probability). Gene drives can arise through a variety of mechanisms.[3][4] They have been proposed to provide an effective means of genetically modifying specific populations and entire species.

    The technique can employ adding, deleting, disrupting, or modifying genes.[5][6]

    Proposed applications include exterminating insects that carry pathogens (notably mosquitoes that transmit malaria, dengue, and zika pathogens), controlling invasive species, or eliminating herbicide or pesticide resistance.[7][5][8][9]

    [MORE]

  22. Bemildred says:

    So, you notice that it is all analog, not digital? Digital would be too slow.

  23. ruralguy says:

    Wonderful writing, Fred. This insect’s vision is even more impressive when you consider its vision system uses filters to minimize the information content of the image, while maximizing the object identification. I.e. it needs to identify and discriminate between different prey, in all orientations, different radiometric illumination and reflectance views, in different motions, in the midst of many different types of noisy backgrounds. That’s just the sensing. It also has a navigation, controls and guidance laws, to counter its preys’ motions that shames our most sophisticated GNC mathematical algorithms.

  24. @goldgettin

    @goldgettin

    Every one of your questions [i]starts[/i] from a premise of a purpose. I’m not interested in a fight either, but… expecting an answer in that framework, when everything I wrote above specifically argues that this premise is false just doesn’t make any sense.

    Evolution doesn’t have a purpose; it is not working toward some end; there’s no “design” involved (take a look at the ridiculousness of the giraffe’s laryngeal nerve, for one simple example – https://timpanogos.blog/2011/10/08/evidence-of-evolution-giraffes-laryngeal-nerve/ ). Most of all, there is no “why”; there’s simply an “is”. Asking anyone to predict the future of stars, have opinions on “space junk”, be impressed by vastness as something mysterious (rather than simply amazing and wonderful on its own merits), or find some magical purpose behind it all is as fruitless as it is pointless.

    I’ll also note that religion provides no answers to any of those questions – “god did it” is an excuse for lack of knowledge, not an actual answer – while science continues making inroads on everything within its domain (quantifiable, falsifiable, etc.)

    • Agree: Bro43rd
  25. @Bill Jones

    @Bill Jones

    I’m not an expert in cosmogony, but as a friend of mine (interestingly enough, a devoted Catholic) recently quipped on Quora, “The Big Bang is the universe’s pediatrician – not its obstetrician”. (I’ll also note, just to avoid a common point of confusion, that evolution has essentially no relation to abiogenesis – i.e., “where it all came from.”) But I also don’t think that postulating a deity is necessary or useful – for one thing, where would it have come from, and how was it created? If it was “always there”, why can we not say the same for the universe and the (completely organic, emergent) mechanism of its initiation?

    WRT an Overton Window – I don’t have a problem considering a scenario in which there’s a deity that’s responsible for the creation of the universe; it’s possible to make a plausible argument for it, at least in broad outline. But that scenario doesn’t have any predictive power, is not quantifiable or falsifiable (and thus not subject to rational thought or even logical thought experiment), and in fact has no utility I can think of – since it provides a non-answer that can’t be explored. Science, at least, postulates it as a question without a current definitive answer – and that invites exploration. A far more interesting way to live, with a far broader Window.

    • Replies: @Bill Jones
  26. @MadFiddler

    It’s always interesting to see someone “explain” the existing properties of something as magical simply because they don’t understand it – usually by assigning it a purpose, then using the presumed difficulty of construction for that purpose to build a circular argument based on it. A fairly trivial exercise in fairy-tale creation, but it looks impressive unless you think about it.

    So let’s build an example of our own. Consider: how much computing power and manufacturing capacity would it take to design and build something that can traverse smooth and rough surfaces automatically and without guidance while keeping a generally straight line? How much of our civilization’s infrastructure would it require to design the engine for such a vehicle that would keep it going for a significant distance, and that would also contain the (non-explosive) fuel necessary to do so? And to increase the difficulty exponentially – perhaps to the level of near impossibility! – make it easy enough for a young child to construct and operate? Surely, a task of unbelievable difficulty for us simplistic humans…

  27. I suspect brains are less important, or rather, not the sole factor in memory and function that many think they are.

    The brain is a kind of conduit for the soul, whether an individual one or a hive mind (bugs operate off of a collective soul of the hive) and many thoughts and guiding instructions and even memories can, and are, held outside of it. Thus, those odd stories of people with memories that exist outside their experiences (out of body), or people literally missing pieces of their brain, but not exhibiting brain damage or severe memory loss.

    Anyhow, the bug brain cell count got me thinking.

  28. PJ London says:
    @goldgettin

    What Doug is pointing out is how ridiculous is the whole concept of evolution.
    A process that apparently bypassed your antecedents.

    • Replies: @goldgettin
  29. @Achmed E. Newman

    “I got stung by a yellow jacket on the palm of my hand…”

    Last year I took a sip of beer without realizing that a hornet was swimming in it. The little bastard stung my lower lip twice as I spit out my beer. I had to grab him and pull him off my lip. In about 10 minutes my lip puffed up to a size I would hardly imagine possible.

    It looked a bit like this…

    I’m glad he didn’t get me in the throat. That might have been problematic.

    • Thanks: goldgettin
    • Replies: @Gordon K. Shumway
  30. joe2.5 says:
    @TheLaughingBuddha

    Amen to all that. But then, Fred did not say anything else; he does not even start innuendoes on intelligent or not design etc. He just made the same point you made, really, the one about the huge difficulties in reproducing exactly a gob of mud. Obviously human computing and manufacturing capacity is rudimentary as yet (and perhaps will remain so.) Nothing to be ashamed of. Compensating for that is the relatively short time in which humans (a minute and unrepresentative minority thereof, though) figured out the mechanism of evolution and managed to prove it mathematically.

    • Replies: @TheLaughingBuddha
  31. @PJ London

    Good catch!Say it loud,and say it clear.My first comment was
    sanctioned, as I tend to wander off topic occasionally,but that’s
    because I’m usually playing chess,eating,watching t.v.and
    getting ready for bed.Let me state,that my conclusions are of a
    more circular nature,meaning less linear, if you follow…
    and as that most often leads to misunderstandings of which I’ve
    no control,sometimes my points still manage to accrue.Anyway,
    where’s your comment,or are you just a tiny speech bot on patrol?

  32. @Adam Smith

    Looks like you’ve discovered a natural alternative to collagen injections.

    • LOL: Adam Smith
  33. @joe2.5

    The reason I mention ID is that Fred has done a number of iterations on this “behold the wondrous ant” theme in the past, usually wrapping it up with a “scientists are stumped, therefore ID” bow. What makes it interesting is that this time, he’s omitted it. I suspect he’s been slammed on that silly lean to his arguments enough to know it won’t play anymore.

    One point that’s worth noting in all of this is Moravec’s Paradox: the fact that during much of the past century, we’ve used most of our scientific/intellectual capital in developing computing – artificial thought – rather than automated, molecular-level production (say, the nanomachine economy envisioned by K. Eric Drexler in his “Engines of Creation”.) But consumer-level computing has only existed for 40 years or so (more like 15-20 in its present form); historically, not even a blip. And yet, this is the “flaw” on which all sorts of folks focus their “arguments”: “See??? We humans can’t produce ants/microscopic engines/nano-sized computers, etc.! Oh, the greatness of Nature/God/whatever!”

    Give us another 50 or 100 years, folks. We’re working as fast as we can… planet-sized transformations take time.

  34. @WorkingClass

    Pests to humans but very needed in the ecosystem

  35. @Doug1943

    The thing that is most mind boggling to me is that people can look at the complexity of a hornet and believe was the result of random DNA mutations. That might be slightly believable – but then you look at an ant and a bird and a peach tree and see that it was virtually impossible that random mutations and natural selection could engineer and design such complexities.

    • Agree: Rogue
    • Replies: @El Dato
  36. Psalm

    18/19:1
    The heavens declare the glory of God;
    And the firmament shows His handiwork.

    138/139:14
    I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    Marvelous are Your works,
    And that my soul knows very well.

  37. @WorkingClass

    Yes, indeed, working class. I was thinking, “wow, these insects are pretty impressive…. ” but I still don’t like the fucking things. I’d spray the little bastards too.

  38. MEH 0910 says:
    @Achmed E. Newman

    Mexican Red Rump Tarantula vs Giant Cockroach | MONSTER BUG WARS

    In the bug world, the smallest creature can be the cruelest killer. But some corners of the rainforest breed truly terrifying Giants.

    When a Mexican Red Rump Tarantula goes up against a Giant Cockroach.

  39. Anonymous[181] • Disclaimer says:

    The last comment about the very small ant raises a potential line of research on the mind-brain connection. Is the mind coterminous with the brain? Are there nonmaterial components to an organism beyond or outside of the physical body?

    It has been said that there are strange cases where people have maintained normal functioning and memory while lacking large parts of their brains. If this is so then these small organisms may be useful in research on the nature of the mind. What if the intricacy of these small organisms is not primarily controlled by their observed brains but my a more complex, nonmaterial component which we shall call the mind?

    It may be possible to use very small multicellular organisms to research the mind-body connection. If the control mechanism of the body of an organism is only partially found in the brain then the size of that part of the control mechanism which is immaterial may be relatively very large in very small organisms and relatively more easy to identify and characterize from an external point of view.

    If the mind of an insect can be identified then as a separate construct, perhaps this construct could be replaced or modified into an artificial version under human control by some means quite different from physical surgery and en masse. Then the world could have swarms of small biological robots which could probe and build within various aspects of the biosphere.

    • Replies: @The Anti-Gnostic
  40. @Anonymous

    Brain is coterminous with Mind. An Alzheimer’s patient is losing his or her mind, from the frontal lobes back.

  41. El Dato says:
    @showmethereal

    “random mutations and natural selection could engineer and design such complexities”

    You misunderestimate the power of extremely parallel generate and test strategies in a search space where modularization can be applied.

    In any case, if there is design it’s about “one universe smaller”, in the exquisitely fine-tuned interaction of elementary fields, based on a complex-valued probability fluid, which are very untractable to our most powerful computer machines even for something as simple as a few quarks interacting for a few femtoseconds.

  42. RodW says:

    I’ve was stung on the arm by a Japanese hornet (called ‘sparrow wasps’ in Japanese). It felt like being stabbed with a hot needle for twenty seconds, then nothing, until next day when my arm swelled up to twice its size. It stayed that way, with a burning itch for a week. My whole lower arm itched for about six months. Now, even three years after being stung, the site of the sting still itches occasionally. There’s a red and white patch about half a centimetre across where the sting went in.

    I hit the little bastard out of the air with the saw I was using and whacked it to mincemeat before making myself scarce before all of its mates came. It was not adequate revenge.

  43. Fred is describing a marvelous system. How can anyone, evolutionist or creationist, not marvel at it?
    How can we not also marvel at our ability to study, in this example a murder wasp, and describe the different components in the system? We can understand what the different components do and, yet, still there is enough “mystery” to further study in trying to understand how they work.

    Growing up, my cousin and I got stung by plenty wasps. Find a nest, throw rocks, hit with sticks, get nest and inspect the larvae. That’s kids for you. Did I mention bee hives?

    Then, some never grow up.

    Coyote Peterson Purposefully Gets Stung By ‘Murder Hornet’

    • Replies: @JaimeInTexas
  44. @JaimeInTexas

    Apparently he did grow up and no longer gets himself stung on purpose.

  45. T.Rebon says:

    Methink Fred is right, there are so many article over here and lots of discussion. But i am relaxed with any other position.

    All ends at the same question. Who creates – in this case here – the creator?

  46. Toward the end of a genocide…

    Moreover the Lord your God will send the hornet among them until those who are left, who hide themselves from you, are destroyed. Deut 7:20

    I suspect some smart people in Israel are studying and adapting to a murderous drone, to be named Hornet.

    • Replies: @Gordon K. Shumway
  47. @Craig Nelsen

    The Doolittle raid began from the carrier Hornet. And most of Japan was soon destroyed.

  48. MEH 0910 says:

    Incredible Moment Army Of Ants Build Bridge To Raid Wasp Nest

    A large colony of army ants worked together to build an enormous hanging bridge designed to help invade and loot a giant wasp nest in Costa Rica.


    [MORE]

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