When many individual organisms, like locusts, …

When many individual organisms, like locusts, bacteria, anchovies, or bats, come together and move as one coordinated entity, that’s a swarm. From a handful of birds to billions of insects, swarms can be almost any size. Gigantic swarms can host millions of insects and travel thousands of miles, devastating vegetation and crops. They stay close to each other, but not too close, or they might get eaten by their hungry neighbors. 

What all swarms have in common is that there’s no leader. Members of the swarm interact only with their nearest neighbors or through indirect cues. Each individual follows simple rules: Travel in the same direction as those around you, stay close, and avoid collisions. There are many benefits to traveling in a group like this. Small prey may fool predators by assembling into a swarm that looks like a much bigger organism. And congregating in a large group reduces the chance that any single individual will be captured. Moving in the same direction as your neighbors saves energy by sharing the effort of fighting wind or water resistance. It may even be easier to find a mate in a swarm. Swarming can also allow groups of animals to accomplish tasks they couldn’t do individually. When hundreds or millions or organisms follow the same simple rules, sophisticated behavior called swarm intelligence may arise.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why do animals form swarms? – Maria R. D’Orsogna

Animation by Matt Reynolds

It happens, life is life…

It happens, life is life…


Happy Lunar New Year!

It’s the Year of the Dog!

According to the Chinese zodiac, your sign is the animal assigned to your birth year. Of the many myths explaining these animal signs and their arrangement, the most enduring one is that of the Great Race. As the story goes, Yù Dì, or Jade Emperor, Ruler of the Heavens, wanted to devise a way to measure time, so he organized a race. The first twelve animals to make it across the river would earn a spot on the zodiac calendar in the order they arrived.

The ever playful Dog came in 11th. When it came time to cross the river, he got distracted and frolicked in the water for so long that, despite his great swimming skills, he scrambled to the finish line just ahead of the Pig.

And so, each year is associated with one of the animals in this order, with the cycle starting over every 60 years. Why 60 and not twelve? Check out our TED-Ed Lesson on the Chinese Zodiac to find out!

From the TED-Ed Lesson The myth behind the Chinese zodiac – Megan Campisi and Pen-Pen Chen

Animation by @martaprokopova

Leidenfrost effect

Leidenfrost effect

Please, don’t try this at home.

Seen at Physics Stack Exchange, in a comment to the top answer to the question, Why can I touch aluminum foil in the oven and not get burned?

Let’s have some sweet for Saint Valentin…

Let’s have some sweet for Saint Valentine. Happy day, lovers!


tamakid: I got a lot of asks about this so I …


I got a lot of asks about this so I made a tutorial on how I was able to emulate the 80s aesthetic, please keep in mind I’m not an expert and what I put here is just what I personally did. I hope you guys like it and hope it helps

go crazy kids

digitalpubliclibraryofamerica: Happy Valentin…


Happy Valentine’s Day! 

Not to make you feel guilty about buying your card at the store, but check out the art of the hand-made and custom-designed Valentine’s Day card in DPLA! Here are a few and explore many more

Selected cards include:

museumwales: Beth ydych chi’n ei fwyta ar Dyd…


Beth ydych chi’n ei fwyta ar Dydd Mawrth Ynyd? Crempog, ffroes, cramoth, poncagau, yntau pancos?

Did you know there are at least five different Welsh names for pancakes? Crempog, ffroes, cramoth, pancos, poncagau.

Why do we love?



Ah, romantic love; beautiful and intoxicating, heart-breaking and soul-crushing… often all at the same time! Why do we choose to put ourselves though its emotional wringer? Does love make our lives meaningful, or is it an escape from our loneliness and suffering?  Is love a disguise for our sexual desire, or a trick of biology to make us procreate? Is it all we need? Do we need it at all?

If romantic love has a purpose, neither science nor psychology has discovered it yet – but over the course of history, some of our most respected philosophers have put forward some intriguing theories.

1. Love makes us whole, again / Plato (427—347 BCE)

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato explored the idea that we love in order to become complete. In his Symposium, he wrote about a dinner party at which Aristophanes, a comic playwright, regales the guests with the following story. Humans were once creatures with four arms, four legs, and two faces.  One day they angered the gods, and Zeus sliced them all in two. Since then, every person has been missing half of him or herself.  Love is the longing to find a soul mate who will make us feel whole again… or at least that’s what Plato believed a drunken comedian would say at a party.

2. Love tricks us into having babies / Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

Much, much later, German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer maintained that love, based in sexual desire, was a “voluptuous illusion”.  He suggested that we love because our desires lead us to believe that another person will make us happy, but we are sorely mistaken.  Nature is tricking us into procreating and the loving fusion we seek is consummated in our children.  When our sexual desires are satisfied, we are thrown back into our tormented existences, and we succeed only in maintaining the species and perpetuating the cycle of human drudgery.  Sounds like somebody needs a hug.

3. Love is escape from our loneliness / Russell (1872-1970)

According to the Nobel Prize-winning British philosopher Bertrand Russell we love in order to quench our physical and psychological desires.  Humans are designed to procreate; but, without the ecstasy of passionate love, sex is unsatisfying.  Our fear of the cold, cruel world tempts us to build hard shells to protect and isolate ourselves.  Love’s delight, intimacy, and warmth helps us overcome our fear of the world, escape our lonely shells, and engage more abundantly in life.  Love enriches our whole being, making it the best thing in life.  

4. Love is a misleading affliction / Buddha (~6th– 4thC BCE)

Siddhartha Gautama. who became known as ‘the Buddha’, or ‘the enlightened one’, probably would have had some interesting arguments with Russell. Buddha proposed that we love because we are trying to satisfy our base desires.  Yet, our passionate cravings are defects, and attachments – even romantic love – are a great source of suffering.  Luckily, Buddha discovered the eight-fold path, a sort of program for extinguishing the fires of desire so that we can reach ‘nirvana’ – an enlightened state of peace, clarity, wisdom, and compassion.  

5. Love lets us reach beyond ourselves / Beauvoir (1908-86)

Let’s end on a slightly more positive note.  The French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir proposed that love is the desire to integrate with another and that it infuses our lives with meaning.  However, she was less concerned with why we love and more interested in how we can love better.  She saw that the problem with traditional romantic love is it can be so captivating that we are tempted to make it our only reason for being.  Yet, dependence on another to justify our existence easily leads to boredom and power games.  

To avoid this trap, Beauvoir advised loving authentically, which is more like a great friendship: lovers support each other in discovering themselves, reaching beyond themselves, and enriching their lives and the world, together.

Though we might never know why we fall in love, we can be certain that it’ll be an emotional rollercoaster ride.  It’s scary and exhilarating.  It makes us suffer and makes us soar.  Maybe we lose ourselves.  Maybe we find ourselves.  It might be heartbreaking or it might just be the best thing in life.  Will you dare to find out? 

From the TED-Ed Lesson Why do we love? A philosophical inquiry – Skye C. Cleary

Animation by Avi Ofer


From the TED-Ed Lesson Why do we love? A philosophical inquiry – Skye C. Cleary

Animation by Avi Ofer

The 5 Senses of Attraction


Romantic chemistry is all about warm, gooey feelings that gush from the deepest depths of the heart…right? Not quite. Actually, the real boss behind attraction is your brain, which runs through a very quick, very complex series of calculations when assessing a potential partner. Check out these 11 GIFs from Dawn Maslar’s TED-Ed Lesson ‘The science of attraction‘ to get your attractors warmed up in time for Valentine’s Day.

We know. The idea of so much of our attraction being influenced by chemicals and evolutionary biology can seem cold and scientific rather than romantic. But the next time you see someone you like, try to appreciate how your entire body is playing matchmaker to decide if that beautiful stranger is right for you.

After all, just because the calculations are happening in your brain doesn’t mean those warm, fuzzy feelings are all in your head. In fact, all five of your senses play a role, each able to vote for (or veto) a budding attraction.

1. Sight – The eyes are the first components in attraction. Many visual beauty standards vary between cultures and eras, but signs of youth, fertility and good health, such as long lustrous hair, or smooth, scar-free skin are almost always in demand because they’re associated with reproductive fitness.

2. Smell – The nose’s contribution to romance is more than noticing perfume or cologne. It’s able to pick up on natural chemical signals known as pheromones. These not only convey important physical or genetic information about their source but are able to activate a physiological or behavioral response in the recipient.

3. Hearing – Our ears also determine attraction. Studies have shown that heterosexual men prefer females with high-pitched, breathy voices and wide formant spacing, correlated with smaller body size, while heterosexual women prefer low-pitched voices with a narrow formant spacing that suggest a larger body size.

4. Touch – And not surprisingly, touch turns out to be crucial for romance. In one experiment, not realizing the study had begun, participants were asked to briefly hold a coffee, either hot or iced. Later, the participants read a story about a hypothetical person and were asked to rate their personality. Those who had held the hot cup of coffee perceived the person in the story as happier, more social, more generous, and better-natured than those who had held the cup of iced coffee, who rated the person as cold, stoic and unaffectionate.

5. Taste – If a potential mate has managed to pass all these tests, there’s still one more: the infamous first kiss, a rich and complex exchange of tactile and chemical cues, such as the smell of one’s breath and the taste of their mouth. This magic moment is so critical that a majority of men and women have reported losing their attraction to someone after a bad first kiss.

Once attraction is confirmed, your bloodstream is flooded with norepinephrine, activating your fight or flight system. Your heart beats faster, your pupils dilate, and your body releases glucose for additional energy — not because you’re in danger but because your body is telling you that something important is happening. To help you focus, norepinephrine creates a sort of tunnel vision, blocking out surrounding distractions, possibly even warping your sense of time, and enhancing your memory. This might explain why people never forget their first kiss.


From the TED-Ed Lesson The science of attraction – Dawn Maslar

Animation by TOGETHER