Posts Tagged ‘google’

I study the wrong thing…

…according to Google Trends:

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If you’re wondering why I’ve been posting more than usual the last couple days, it’s because I’m home with the flu.  When wrapped in blankets and doped up on Sudafed it’s a lot easier to futz around on the internet than attempt any actual work.


It turns out that flu levels are at their highest point for the season.  I know this through Google’s Flu Trends, one of the company’s cleverest applications.  It seems someone noticed that activity levels of certain search terms correlate tightly with CDC’s official flu statistics, but lead CDC’s estimates by two weeks.  Amazing.

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Even Google does Darwin Day.

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via Google Trends. Blue is ants, red is beetles:


Ants win, even in the face of the beetles’ 20-fold species advantage.

That seasonal pattern is striking, no?

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So you like insects, but can’t be bothered to get up from your computer to go look for some? Google earth to the rescue!

South of Tucson, Arizona (31°38.097’N 111°03.797’W) I found this lovely aerial image. Visualized from an elevation of about a kilometer and a half, it shows a hill just west of I-19 covered in freshly-sprouted grass. Except, there’s this strange pattern of evenly-spaced polka-dots:


What could account for the speckles? Alien crop-circles? Bizarre gardening accidents?

Why no, those are the nest discs of one of our most conspicuous insects in the Sonoran desert, the red harvester ant Pogonomyrmex barbatus. Down on the ground it is harder to get a sense of the even spacing of the nests, but the discs are plenty obvious. The ants keep the large area around their nest entrance free of vegetation and other unwanted debris. Below is a photo I took south of the Huachuca mountains, not far from the google earth image above:


Even closer-up, here are the engineers:


North American Pogonomyrmex aren’t the only ants whose engineering prowess is visible from low-earth orbit. Some of the more spectacular leafcutter ants in South America make even larger mounds. The image below the fold is also from Google Earth, 1 km over the Paraguayan Chaco (24°06.914’S 57°22.240’W).


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