Alaska Science Forum is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community. Ned Rozell is a science writer at the institute.
Ants—Ken Philip says ants aren’t really the muscle-bound insects people trump them up to be. And he should know. Philip and his helpers have built up a vast collection of northern butterflies that will someday belong to the Smithsonian Institution. He called to dispel the notion that the mighty ant’s strength is superior to yours. The myth is born, no doubt, from people seeing ants carrying objects bigger than they are. But tiny humans would be even stronger than ants, Philip said.
“The strength of a muscle is equal to its cross-sectional area,” Philip said. “The weight of an animal is proportional to the cube of its linear size and the strength is proportional to the square. If you reduced a human by a factor of 200, about the size of an ant, he could lift 200 times his own weight. A human being the size of an ant could lift a scaled-down tractor-trailer.”
Lynx—Yoram Yom-Tov of the Zoology Department of Tel Aviv University in Israel recently measured 555 lynx skulls at the University of Alaska Museum of the North. He wanted to see if a warmer Alaska affected the size of lynx. Instead, he found something else.