Hear Those Tiny Auto Horns

Sometimes a headline skips across your screen and you just have to see if the article really lives up to it. Take this one, from CNet a few weeks ago:

Moths take tiny cars out for a spin

You have my attention.

Turns out, scientists have gotten silkmoths to drive tiny cars in search of mates using pheromones:

The methodology taps into how moths sense the world around them: the sensitive scent receptors on their antennae. The researchers placed a target scented with female silkworm moth pheromones, then observed the tethered male moths driving the car toward that target.

How does a moth drive a car with no hands? With an air-supported trackball, much like a mouse trackball. As the moth crawls around on the ball toward the scented target, optical sensors track the ball’s movement and translate that into steering, moving the car in the same direction.

The end game is a better understanding of the ability of insects to detect scents. That could, in theory, lead to a future where the bomb-sniffing dog or cadaver dog is replaced by a drone or robot guided by insect senses.

But the real question that needs immediate follow up is this – when these moths are out cruising for chicks, are they cranking side one of Led Zeppelin IV?


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