Imagine a huge corporation running like a well-oiled machine – with no one in charge. That's how ant colonies work, with not a single leader among 10,000 members. How does anything get done? In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge, a look inside a colony of stinging Harvester ants. Also, the praying mantis and its prey, building robot flies, and Vladimir Nabokov on the trail of butterflies.
Michael Dickinson, a biologist at UC-Berkeley, tells Jim Fleming about the robotic fly he's building. Dickinson thinks flies are amazingly sophisticated flying machines. He hopes his tiny robots will find earthquake survivors and aid secret military operations. Also, entomologist Deborah Gordon tells Steve Paulson that ant colonies run with no one in charge. She's spent years figuring out how they do it. Her book is "Ants at Work: How an Insect Society is Organized."SEGMENT 2:
Gordon Grice is an English professor and a life-long insect hobbyist. He tells Steve Palson about the praying mantis. He keeps one as a pet and says they're one of the world's great predators. Grice is the author of "The Red Hourglass: Lives of Predators." Also, Ecologist Mark Hunter talks with Jim Fleming about the destructive capacity of alien insects. These species - Formosan termites, killer bees, gypsy moths - hitch a ride to the United States on planes and ships, and pose a tremendous economic and ecological threat.SEGMENT 3:
Vladimir Nabokov is not only a great literary figure. He was a world-class lepidopterist who named ten new species. Robert Michael Pyle is a butterfly expert who (with Brian Boyd) has just released "Nabokov's Butterflies: Unpublished and Uncollected Writings." Pyle tells Judith Strasser about Nabokov's work with butterflies, and actor Jeff Golden performs excerpts from Nabokov's butterfly works.Cassette copies are available at 1-800-747-7444. Ask for program number 00-07-23-A.
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