Wikipedia:Reference desk/Archives/Science/2010 May 16

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May 16[edit]

London Blitz[edit]

How many apartment buildings can one V-2 rocket destroy? (Assume that these are your typical pre-World War 2 apartment buildings, five stories or so and unreinforced brick/masonry construction.) (talk) 00:06, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

The best information I can find (after a very quick search) is in our article where it says: "A scientific reconstruction carried out in 2010 demonstrated that the V2 creates a crater 20m wide and 8m deep, throwing up around 3000 tons of material into the air." 20m isn't that much, so you are probably talking about 1-3 buildings destroyed with a few surrounding buildings damaged. V-2's weren't very accurate, though, and many of them didn't hit London at all. It is also worth nothing that there weren't many apartment buildings in London during WW2, they were mostly build after the war. During WW2, high density housing would have been almost all in the form of terraced houses. --Tango (talk) 00:23, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
Although the crater was 20m wide, the actual damage (you'll have had the explosion travelling through the air too) seems to be a little bigger from the third picture (of Finland Rd and Revelon Rd) on this site. There's a considerable chunk missing from the street about a dozen houses wide, although the site doesn't mention whether any extra were cleared for the new buildings. Our article on the V-2 says that although initially quite inaccurate, a radio guidance beam was eventually used that could plant the rocket within metres of its original target. One of the reasons that V-2s, on average, only killed a couple of people is the success of the Double Cross system, which used captured Nazi spies to feed back wonky information that gradually walked the V-2 hits away from central London and towards less densely-populated areas. Really quite ingenious. Brammers (talk) 08:20, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
Channel 4 in the UK recently had a program about this, Blitz Street. The last episode covered V2 bombs. It's available on 4od to UK and RoI residents here. CS Miller (talk) 15:27, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

Neutralization of Ingested Acids[edit]

I just ingested a salad with a generous amount of rice win vinegar (I like sour things) and some barbecue with a vinegar-based sauce. This occurs to me to be a large amount of acid ingested, so I was wondering how does the body rid itself of excess ingested acid? (talk) 02:19, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

See Acid-base homeostasis. One major source of buffering is the bicarbonate in the blood, which can react with protons to generate carbon dioxide (which you exhale) and water. Another way that the body excretes excess acid is in the form of renal tubular reabsorption of bicarbonate resulting in net acid excretion in the urine. That being said, I doubt that ingestion of normal amounts of vinegar in foods would cause any significant acidosis. --- Medical geneticist (talk) 02:41, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
Followup question about the premise: I had thought, with my very vague knowledge of the digestive tract, that the ingestion of any amount of, say, vinegar, would not add "net" acid to the body, because human stomach acid is so strong; whatever mechanism exists to neutralize the stomach acid that goes into the duodenum must be so powerful that weak acids like vinegar would be neutralized instantly, with the mechanism laughing at the puny vinegar. Comet Tuttle (talk) 06:51, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
The hydrochloric acid in the stomach is recycled. Acetic acid isn't. It's not really harmless to the body, just at low doses the body handles it, at higher doses it's actually dangerous. And see [1]. The hydrochloric acid in the body is recycled mainly in order to keep the acid/base balance correct. Adding extra acid does in fact disrupt that (as does vomiting, see: Metabolic alkalosis). Presumably the body can deal with an imbalance to a point, but beyond that it can cause serious damage. See also Metabolic acidosis and Acid-base imbalance. Ariel. (talk) 07:30, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for the links! Comet Tuttle (talk) 16:30, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

Loons in Colorado? What bird is this?[edit]

I didn't think there were loons in Colorado. I'm currently tucked away in the Rockies, it's nightfall, and I'm hearing a bizarre "laughing" call, though the direction is impossible to tell (the sound echos around the valley I'm thinking). There is a large lake a bit off in the distance, however. The sound is similar to the laughing parts near the end (or second half) of the sound clip on the Loon#Etymology_and_taxonomy page. Before I check some reference books (Google wasn't being too helpful, though evidently there have been loons photographed around the state, I'm just not sure why they'd be here so soon), could there be some other animal that "laughs" like this? I have not heard any bugling (if there were, I'd think it was elk, anyway) or other sounds that were played in that clip. Any help would be great, thank you. – Kerαunoςcopiagalaxies 03:10, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

Coyote? Rckrone (talk) 05:01, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
Interesting, didn't even occur to me. The coyotes can usually be heard howling right around dusk, but I'd never heard them "laughing" like this before. However, I thought I also heard "youngins", if that makes sense. So maybe they were just coyotes. I hope they do it again tomorrow. – Kerαunoςcopiagalaxies 05:12, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

It isn't unusual to see loons in the Colorado area. I have been exploring the database of sight records at and have found a map of reported sightings along with frequency counts. A link to that page is here: is a wonderful website for both tracking your personal birding escapades, and for examining birding data from around the Americas. A link to Common Loon sightings specifically in Colorado is provided here: A link to the average count of Common Loons throughout the year in Colorado is here: I hope this helps clear up any questions, and keep on birding! Stripey the crab (talk) 14:55, 16 May 2010 (UTC)Stripey the crab

Awesome link. Okay, next question, because they're doing it again. It's definitely not coyotes. Why? Because the laughing (whoo whoo whoa whoa wah wah wah ah ah ah ah ah) is moving around, in circles... the sound is coming from a creek about 50 yards away from me, and I can hear it "traveling" at a high velocity in circles, and I haven't heard anything like this since I was about 20 feet from a bat and its nest (I think?)... the bat was making a weird vwum vwum vwuuuum sound with its wings and I managed to record it on Minidisc at the time. So ... could this be a very large bat, or just a really crazy bird? Again, it's dusk here, not yet nightfall, and the sound hasn't happened during the day. As for the coyotes, they did their usual barking and howling, but that's earlier in the evening, and yesterday I managed to track their source several hundred yards to the east, farther up the creek and into the mountains than this weird laughing sound. I can't imagine it's a loon now, but sure sounds eerie. Btw, Stripey the crab, interesting website, thanks again for posting. – Kerαunoςcopiagalaxies 02:39, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
Okay, I recorded (very, very, very badly) the sound of the thing, and of course that's when a flock of geese — the only creatures on God's good earth I don't mind being hunted — and a plane decide to fly by. Anyway, expect something that sounds like it's from 1894 because I couldn't afford anything good at the time. I'll post it up here in a few minutes. – Kerαunoςcopiagalaxies 02:59, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

So, does anyone know what bird or creature is this? File:Unknown bird call.ogg (Lots of white noise... I tried noise removal with Audacity and the result was really cool, but unusable. Apologies if I'm breaking some rule here, I'll {{db-author}} the sound file after a few days. – Kerαunoςcopiagalaxies 03:29, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

Hurricanes crossing the equator[edit]

In recorded history, has there ever been a hurricane that has crossed the equator? --The High Fin Sperm Whale 04:56, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

According to the list of tropical cyclones, this has never happened. Cyclone Agni in the Indian Ocean in 2004 came close to the equator but did not cross it. However, in the article about the storm it appears to say that the center did cross, or may have crossed, the equator while the storm was still forming (the wording is a bit confusing). --Anonymous, 05:17 UTC, May 16, 2010.
I asked a question that was similar to this awhile back. The responses may be helpful: Link to August 22, 2009 Archive: Tropical_Cyclone_Crossing_The_Equator Falconusp t c 19:57, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
The gist of it is, there has never been a TC known to cross the equator, but it isn't conclusively known whether or not it's possible. Juliancolton | Talk 13:07, 19 May 2010 (UTC)

medical malpractice[edit]

I've heard that the greatest abusers of drugs are not street addicts but doctors and nurses. Can anyone confirm or refute this? (talk) 06:12, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

You're the one making the claim. Generally, it is the responsibility of the person making the positive assertion to provide evidence to back it up. Generally "I've heard" is a very unreliable source. We must assume that claims like this are false unless anyone can provide evidence to the contrary. --Jayron32 06:15, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
This article claims the rate of substance abuse among "pharmacists and some health care professionals" is higher than among the general populace, though this article mentions the anesthesiologist substance abuse rate is only around 2%. Googling "drug abuse by doctors", there seem to be numerous statements that it's hard to gauge the true rates because it's all hidden and confidential. Comet Tuttle (talk) 06:42, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

It seems unlikely but there are several problems in providing a statistical answer. First, how do you define a "street addict"? Someone who buys any illegal drug from a street seller? Someone who lives on the street because his illegal drug addiction has cost him his home? Someone who lives on the street because alcohol addiction cost him his home? Second, how do you define "substance abuse"? Do legal substances like tobacco and alcohol count? Any use at all, or just use to the point of impairment? Alcohol is certainly the most common substance abuse that leads to impairment among doctors and nurses. Third, it is possible to estimate substance abuse that leads to loss of medical or nursing license because that is published by the state boards of medicine or nursing. I can tell you that every quarter maybe a couple of doctors in a populous state lose their licences for drug related behavior, but most of those license losses are because the doctor broke the law (i.e., selling oxycontin to addicts) rather than because they were addicted. There are not public statistics on those doctors or nurses who quietly and voluntarily go to rehab. And obviously there are no public statistics on how many doctors and nurses are abusing substances but continue to function. So your question is simply not answerable as phrased. Finally, you do realize that substance abuse by professionals is not the same thing as "medical malpractice" and is only tangentially related? Substance abuse per se is not malpractice. alteripse (talk) 14:27, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

Another controversial, unsourced post about drugs. This trolling needs to stop. Regards, --—Cyclonenim | Chat  14:45, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

I agree. Please stop your personal attacks along with your trolling. (talk) 05:07, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

For better or for worse, the methods and motives of doctors are generally 'given a pass' in mainstream discourse. If there is a serious discrepancy between what doctors do, and what is actually most useful to the patient, well, it's generally best to not go there. It's not a defensible approach, questioning whether drugs, surgeries, and the like are legitimate or not. Best to just assume they are. In my experience anyway. Vranak (talk) 01:28, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

After reading this article it would be hard not to agree, unless you were a member of the State Medical Board, which seems to object vehemently. (talk) 04:50, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

'Banana' Snake[edit]

Good afternoon

I have been given some information regarding a snake that bites into the heads of bananas, the venom deposited, then a creature/person eats the fruit, succumbs to the venom and falls, thus creating the meal for this meat-eating snake.

Can anyone please verify this information?

Many thanks (talk) 11:15, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

It sounds almost as unlikely as the liver-eating snake above, but I'm prepared to be amazed if anyone can come up with even a scrap of evidence. Dbfirs 11:25, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
(edit conflict)It seems unlikely, googling "banana snake poison" doesn't bring anything up. I found this which discusses using bananas poisoned by snakes and then being used as a poison. Why would a snake go to the bother of waiting for something to eat the particular banana it had bitten when it could just bite the animal instead? Where did you hear it from? (talk) 11:28, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
As counter-evidence, this website: Department of Forensic Medicine, Maulana Azad Medical College, New Delhi, Indiasays: "The question is often asked, what would happen if one ingested the snake venom? Would he die? The answer is "no". Snake venom is a mixture of proteins which would be digested in the stomach. It is also suggested that snake venom is not absorbed from the gastric mucus membrane. However if a person is suffering from gastric ulcer, some snake venom may be absorbed through this ulcer and may pose danger to the person ingesting snake venom." Dbfirs 11:33, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, I didn't realise that this is the same link as that provided by Dbfirs 11:41, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
Also note that venom is not the same as poison.--Shantavira|feed me 14:54, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

Banana Snake extra answer!!![edit]

Hello again

Im sorry, being a newbie here, I am unaware how to make this part of the answer section of my original question.

Many thanks for the answers given so far.

I agree about why would the snake bite into the banana, and not go direct (cut out the middle man eh?)... it did cross my mind, but of course, there is no telling what instincts are driving the particular action, especially in a 'caught in a trap situation'.

In answer to the querie, I got it from my hubby who was told the info by a colleague who works for a banana processing plant in UK. (Fyfe's depot in Tilbury perhaps?) Anyway, he was telling hubby about the gas lined packing sacks, the 'antidote' spray to the gas and the fact that when the plants are removed from the sacks at some point during the process, scorpions can be seen scuttling around, as well as the snakes occassional appearances. These creatures are then 'dealt with' (official term???). Anyway, I was amazed by all this and wanted to verify the info re the snakes as of course if it's true, then everyone should be made aware.

Thank you re the info about the efficacy of the poison/venom and stomach...

I will keep hunting, and if I find any more, I will post back here to let any interested party know. Many thanks again, I much appreciate your help. (talk) 16:04, 16 May 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:02, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

It strikes me that there might be some confusion here. There are certainly poisonous/unpleasant animals that live in banana trees and potentially pose a threat to people who work with bananas (e.g. the Brazilian wandering spider). I don't think any of these pose a threat because they sting bananas and make them poisonous—this seems totally unlikely. But for someone who works with bananas, these kinds of things are probably not uncommon threats to watch out for, and there are probably means of controlling them built into the system. Rest assured, if consumers were at some kind of risk I'm sure people would have been aware of it by now (do you know anybody who has keeled over from eating a banana? Have you ever heard of such a thing? If not, then it's probably not a major risk). --Mr.98 (talk) 18:44, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
One banana? No. Many, many bananas? Yes. (talk) 21:12, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

Onion Bully[edit]

Anyone have any credible suggestions about how Onion Bully works? It is a metal shoehorn that goes in the user's mouth while they cut onions that supposedly stops them from crying. Other than "tear science" and "the shoehorn tells your brain to turn off your tear ducts" can the wonderful persons of the science ref desk provide some clue as to how this (probably useless) invention might work? --Jabberwalkee (talk) 16:24, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

Most likely Placebo effect. ---- — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)
I can't find any reference to it that isn't a recycling of the YouTube video or a reposting of a single Geekologie blog post. Based on the name and logo color scheme, I can't help but wonder if it's an elaborate hoax by The Onion. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 18:30, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
I think it is to do with the fact that it encourages you to breath through your mouth. I find it helps when cutting onions and there seems to be a fair amount of anecdotal advice on the web also suggesting this (e.g.. So basically there is no need to but the product, just breath through your mouth. (talk) 18:46, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
I would just suck on a Jolly Rancher while cutting an onion, I wouldn't spend $10...wait, I get two for that price?! :D – Kerαunoςcopiagalaxies 21:31, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
For what it's worth, I have terribly sensitive eyes and can usually tolerate cutting an onion if I am mindful to only breathe in through my mouth and not my nose. I suspect the metal itself has some sort of ionizing effect on your tastebuds and is a sort of sensory distraction against the impact on your other senses. --Jmeden2000 (talk) 18:25, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
One traditional way to avoid onion-related lacrimosity is to suck on a metal spoon. I suppose the Onion Bully works in the same way, and is intended for those without spoons in their kitchens. DuncanHill (talk) 21:34, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
The mechanism they describe, turning off the tear ducts, sounds like a bad idea! If my eyes are irritated by an onion, I personally would want the irritation washed away. Paul (Stansifer) 22:23, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
The slot in the device keeps an airway open between the lips so that inhaling is through the mouth instead of the nose. Cuddlyable3 (talk) 22:54, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

It works with any object placed in the mouth that protrudes and "blocks" the miniscule droplets of onion juice from hitting your eyeballs. My mom uses a big piece of bread like a sponge. but the makers of onion bully couldn't get rich of plain old bread! (talk) 16:41, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

In addition to the metal spoon technique DuncanHill mentions, a matchstick held in the teeth (red end out) is a supposed method of neutralizing the lacrimotic effects. I want to say it's even been suggested on cooking shows, possibly by the likes of Julia Child herself[citation needed]. The sulfur in the match counteracts the sulfur in the onion somehow, or so the theory goes. A quick google search brought up Yahoo answers, Askville, &c., but nothing very authoritative. Some sites suggest striking the match and blowing it out; some don't. Some jerk on the Internet (talk) 12:43, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

Exposure to Pornography[edit]

I'd like to preface this question by stating the obvious that children themselves should NEVER be sexualized. My question is regarding the dangers of exposure...There seems to be a perpetual debate regarding children witnessing sexual acts on tv and pornography on the internet. People spend lots of time filtering what their children see but besides a sense of shame about nudity is there really any evidence children will be psychological harmed from seeing sexual material? I wouldn't want my son or daughter to see internet porn but I'm wondering why I think that besides cultural norms. Surely back in prehistoric times people had sex out in public all the time so what changed and why do we now consider early exposure to be so harmful? TheFutureAwaits (talk) 20:21, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

Interesting question. You could take the prehistoric point even further and suggest that anyone who passed through puberty might have ended up reproducing, even in young teenage years. That would suggest to me that there's little chance of exposure to pornography at that age being harmful. Pre-teenage years is a different question altogether. Regards, --—Cyclonenim | Chat  21:04, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
Seriously beg to differ. We have no evidence either way of prehistoric attitudes; we do have evidence of social discomfort with parental nudity back 3000 years or more in our own culture (Genesis), and there is plenty of reason to think that the core stories and cultural values in it go back a lot farther. On the other hand, there is testimony from explorers and others that public sexuality in various non-Western cultures was not always hidden or an object of modesty or shame. However, both of those things are different from pornography, and speculation about prehistory is not very relevant to the question of how harmful exposure to modern pornography may be to modern children. I doubt one can separate out the social context: I would contend that certain items might be "porn" in one culture but not another, and that the effect of large exposure to children in the two cultures would be partly a function of whether it is considered "porn", with all the associated shame, guilt, taboo, etc that goes with it for children. There is evidence that exposure to substantial amounts of televised violence and sex changes attitudes of children, including both responses to them and lowered thresholds of engaging in it. Few people think that single exposures are especially harmful, and I doubt if anyone has tried to measure dose response. The other difficulty with answering this is that the kind of parents who allow children to view large amounts of porn are likely to be unusual in many ways, making it difficult to disentangle specific parenting actions. I am sure that if you google exposure of children to pornography you would get a fuller answer. alteripse (talk) 21:40, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
This might sound like a troll post but really, it's not, I'm at work so I can't exactly google for sources! Anyway, only a few months ago, some group in Canada tried to do a study into the effects of exposure to pr0n on the social life of college students, but they couldn't find enough students who didn't watch pr0n. It was reported in Nature magazine. Vespine (talk) 22:15, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
I must say it's not surprising. I assumed the original questioner was referring to pre-adolescent children, not young adults. It would be impossible to do even an ascertainment study in children. alteripse (talk) 23:16, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
I agree with alteripse that sexuality and pornography are different things, and mixing up cultural norms within a given culture always seems to be a recipe for social/individual problems. That said I do think that the bruhaha about protecting the children, especially in modern US politics, is often overblown. Original Research ahoy: When I was, I don't know, 9 or 10 or so, my friends (all male) and I were insatiably fascinated by the idea of nudity and sex (though we were definitely prepubescent—we, or at least I, were certainly not interested in having sex at this point), and sought out all sorts of pornography in our parents' closets, bathrooms, and other places they thought we were too innocent to root through. Reading Playboy was pretty exciting for us, in part because it was clearly taboo. I don't think it traumatized me, though perhaps this was because it was on my own terms, and I don't think it irreversibly screwed up my future love life, attitudes towards women, and so on (but really, who knows?). Now, I don't claim to know if it's the same thing for all children, or how much of that is due to my being white, American, and middle class, or how much it would be different if what we were exposed to wasn't the relatively mild Playboy spreads compared to, say, what passes for "hardcore pornography" on the internet these days. But I don't think it's a total given that even in this modern culture that all children are "innocents" until they magically become 18, or that anything sexualized before that will "scar" them in some horrible way. (I agree that you need to set an age of consent, for clear administrative purposes.) I think adults in the modern US (and probably elsewhere) have a peculiar way of forgetting what they were like as children in imagining how they would like their own children to act. --Mr.98 (talk) 02:21, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
The key factor here is that you "sexualized yourself" at a pace that worked for you. The trouble comes when predatory adults try to push children past what they're ready for. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:08, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
What does 'sexualized' really mean? Children have an erotic life just the same as adults. I guess you mean they shouldn't be exposed to or involved in anything shady. So, perhaps you mean they shouldn't be corrupted (clearly not, but idealism doesn't prevent it). Getting a kiss from daddy or the boy in school is not corrupting but it's naive to think there's no sexual element in it. Innocently sexual is still sexual. Vranak (talk) 08:40, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
The sexuality of adults vs. children is, to use a Larry Miller quote out of context, "like the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it." ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 12:08, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
Concurred. But I'm always a bit suspicious when people start talking about 'sexualizing children'. Seems like a big red herring, so some other fishy business can carry on unnoticed. Vranak (talk) 16:24, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

Searching on PubMed ( gave me (among others) the following article:

Apart from the study itself, the article contains a lot of references which seem interesting. Gabbe (talk) 13:13, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

There's really no solid study of this, because of the ethics involved. To provide a proper, scientific study, you'd need a group of children who were intentionally exposed to porn or sexual situations, to judge their reactions against a control group. Not. Gonna. Happen.
That said, you can perform studies on people who self-reported as exposed to such situations, but that's invariably filtered through the lens of memory and social stigma. You could try studying victims of child abuse... but that inherently biases the study towards abusive exposure to sexuality. There's just no real, scientific way to get this kind of answer.
As an aside, Alfred Kinsey had done a study on the orgasmic capabilities of young children, which helped set aside the notion that children are asexual, but it wasn't without controversy; especially since a majority of it came from memory, along with interviews with men who had sexual interactions with children. — The Hand That Feeds You:Bite 15:02, 19 May 2010 (UTC)

NG photo question[edit]

(Moved from misc desk)

OK, so this one[2] has puzzled me ever since I saw it in the magazine about 3 years ago. The bug on the right is a trap-jaw ant. The critter on the left is unidentified, and the caption is a bit vague. So my question is for all you insect experts out there: What's the bug on the left, and has the ant just bitten its head off, or what? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:47, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

This is a biology question. With no research I'd say the insect on the left is some sort of grasshopper, compare the picture that heads the WP article, not exact but . . .. The grasshopper's head has not been bitten off as you can clearly see its large multifaceted eyes and jaws. Richard Avery (talk) 07:34, 16 May 2010 (UTC)
Yes, looks very much like a grasshopper nymph, with its head pretty much intact. The only thing missing may be the tips of the antennae, not sure. --Dr Dima (talk) 01:42, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
What would be that part that seems to be lying on the leaf just to the grasshopper's left? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:22, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
Also, the caption in the article from which the picture came suggests the grasshopper is a "predator". First off, the ant seems to be bigger than the grasshopper. Secondly, I thought grasshoppers ate vegetation. So I'm just puzzled by what's really happening in this picture. Maybe NG was also, and just made something up? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 03:26, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
Are we looking at the same picture here? The one you linked to shows a grasshopper and an ant on the leaf. Grasshopper is on the left. Ant is on the right. There is nothing lying on the leaf, and there is nothing to the grasshopper's left. The picture is by Mark W. Moffett (he is well known). Or are you talking about something else entirely? --Dr Dima (talk) 04:41, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
BTW, "well known" implies "is very highly unlikely to make things up". --Dr Dima (talk) 04:49, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
Yes, a grasshopper on the left and a trap-jaw ant on the right. Just the other side of the grasshopper it looks like there's a severed grasshopper appendage. But maybe I'm misinterpreting things. Anyway, the original writeup in NG, as well as the description of this picture back on the parent page (not this specific page) talks about the ant defending itself against a predator. So is the grasshopper a predator to an ant? I wouldn't think so. But maybe they were just talking about the trap-jaw ant in general, and this was the best photo they had? ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:49, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
The caption reads, "Do Not Blink: Set off by the touch of a prey insect against sensitive trigger hairs, the mandibles of the trap-jaw ant Odontomachus hastatus snap shut in the fastest reflex ever recorded in the animal kingdom. The ant's jaws accelerate from zero to 143 miles (230 kilometers) an hour in 0.13 milliseconds—2,300 times faster than the blink of an eye."
But that does not seem to describe the photo very well. I just thought someone here smarter than I am (which is probably most of you) might be able to see what I'm not seeing. :) ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 04:56, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
Trap-jaw ants are predators. The jaws of a trap-jaw ant serve to kill and dismember prey, as well as to deter predators. These ants may even use their jaws to catapult themselves away from the danger if necessary, AFAIR. Grasshopper is prey. I don't think there's anything else in the picture, but I may be missing something, too. --Dr Dima (talk) 07:17, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
Well, duh, I said you all were smarter than me. The poor li'l ol' grasshopper would be the prey, not the predator. That still doesn't explain that seemingly severed piece sitting on the leaf behind the 'hopper's left side. I'm guessing the photographer was just glad he got such a nifty closeup, and the caption was just general information. The speed of the jaw is remarkable, but it's also quite small. The mandibles of an ant the size of an elephant probably wouldn't be able to snap shut quite so quickly. ←Baseball Bugs What's up, Doc? carrots→ 11:47, 17 May 2010 (UTC)