A little clutter on the way to the refrigerator might mean taking a few extra seconds to navigate your way to a late night snack. For a bat flying around in the dark searching for a meal of insects, the "clutter" of things like leaves and trees could mean missing out on a tasty morsel of dinner altogether.
Echolocating bats adjust their vocalizations to catch insects against a changing environmental background. (Photo: Steven Dear)
A bat finds its way around with sound rather than sight. Using a sensory process called echolocation, the bat emits ultrasonic pulses that hit objects like leaves, trees, and insects, and bounce back to the bat to tell it whats in the vicinity. When an echo returns from "clutter" at the same time a sound bounces back from an insect, the bat has a real challenge figuring out where the bug is.
In an article published in the open access journal PLoS Biology, University of Maryland psychology professor Cynthia Moss reports on new research that shows bats have methods for echolocating food in "clutter" that may be more complex than scientists have thought.
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Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
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Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
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