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February 10, 1984 - Image 12

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-02-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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12 Friday, February 10, 1984

THE



DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Pr

Israel Hornets to Aid Space Travel

GLATT

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TEL AVIV — Hornets
may have the solution to
one of the biggest problems
of space travel — getting
along without gravity. To
find out what these insects
know, Tel Aviv University
scientists are preparing to
send them into space, in a
joint project of the Israel
Space Agency and the Na-
tional Aeronautics and
Space Administration of the
U.S.
Heading the project,
which is Israel's first collab-
oration with NASA, is TAU
entomologist Prof. Jacob
Ishay, who has been study-
ing the behavior of the hor-

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net for over 20 years. Hor-
nets have a unique ability,
according to Prof. Ishay —
they can measure gravity.
This talent, which is
unique, was discovered by
studying the way hornets
build their combs. Resear-
chers observed that they
build in a downward direc-
tion, towards the center of
gravity, and usually in the
dark. They concluded that
the insects possess spe-
cialized mechanisms which
enable them to detect
gravitational forces.
In one experiment,
special containers with
hornets were placed on a
horizontal centrifuge
which produced cen-
trifugal forces as it ro-
tated. Despite these addi-
tional forces and changes
in direction, the hornets
were able to detect min-
ute changes in the
gravitational force.
"Once it was ascertained,
after numerous experi-
ments, that hornets have
the ability to measure dif-
ferences in the
gravitational force, we
launched this research proj-
ect. We are planning to send
about 500 Oriental Hornets
into space, where there is
little or no gravitational
force. We are interested in
seeing how the hornets will
build a comb under zero-
gravity conditions, how
their acoustical communi-
cation, which depends on
gravity, will be affected,
and what will happen to
their larvae," Prof. Ishay

explained.
NASA has promised a
biological laboratory shut-
tle with an astronaut to feed
and care for the insects dur-
ing the flight, scheduled for
the end of 1986. The space-
travelling hornets will be
bred in Prof. Ishay's labora-
tory.
According to Dror Sadeh,
coordinator of the Israel
Space Agency and a profes-
sor of physics and as-
tronomy at Tel Aviv Uni-
versity, information ob-
tained from the experiment
could make space travel
more comfortable.
"By understanding
how the hornets build
and live in zero gravity
conditions, and by apply-
ing this knowledge to as-
tronauts, future space
travel could be greatly
improved," Prof. Sadeh
said.
Prof. Ishay is optimistic
that the Oriental Hornets
— one of 22 hornet species
— will cooperate and build a
comb in the shuttle, since
they build regularly and are
more predictable than bees,
wasps and other hornet spe-
cies.
Although experiments
have been conducted in the
U.S. in which bees and spid-
ers were sent into space,
this is the first time ever
that such work has been
done with hornets. And ac-
cording to Prof. Ishay, they
may provide some very
practical information.
"Today astronauts still
return complaining of

-

headaches, nausea, vomit-
ing and weakness," he said.
"This space sickness could
be caused by disorientation
due to lack of gravity per-
ception. There are many
unanswered questions, and
perhaps these hornets can
serve as sensors for us to see
what happens out there."

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