Electric Dreams

fairy lightsScientists (and James Cameron, Director of Avatar) have electric dreams about harnessing the power from creatures and nature. Read on to discover how an electric eel can power a christmas tree and how a rat’s brain can control a robot. We’ve also found the best place on earth which will give our entomologists a warm glow inside this Christmas.

Electric Eel Energy

The electric eel may not be the prettiest of creatures but it could be the next big green energy fad. A Japanese aquarium is powering its Christmas tree using aluminum panels inside the tanks to channel the electricity generated by the eels movements. This generates enough power to make the lights sparkle.

Rat Brain Power

Scientists from Reading University used rat brain tissue artificially grown in a lab to drive a robot.

By stimulating certain responses within the cells scientists have been able to make the robot, or “animat”, move.

Through the experiment it is hoped the machine will lead to discoveries in how our brains work, and even to develop treatments for diseases such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Professor Kevin Warwick, head of cybernetics at Reading University, told The Telegraph ,”[The animat] is actively learning. The signals and the pathways are strengthening as each action gets repeated.”

He also hopes to use the animat to try to understand more about how the brain works, for example how it remembers things, by capturing the signals.

Nature’s Fairy Lights

Glow worms would look great in tiny jars hanging from the branches of your Christmas tree. But remember they are not meant to be kept in captivity so release them back to the wild after a couple of days.

The glow worm is about as bright as an LED indicator on a hi-fi and can be found around the world. For a breathtaking tour to rival your city centre christmas lights visit the glow worm caves (pictured) in the Waitomo region of New Zealand.

In the UK Lampyris noctiluca, is not at all worm-like but is a beetle up to 25 mm long. Only the wingless female glows strongly, to attract the flying males. Other bugs which emit luminescence include caterpillars and centipedes.

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