Of all the bugs that achieve the mantle of summer pest, cicadas are perhaps the most curious. They don't sting, they don't bite, they don't buzz around your head, they taste good in chocolate, but as the drowning din of the 17-year brood this summer will remind: we would love them less if they emerged more often.
Cicadas are unique among insects in their ability to emit loud and annoying sounds. So why would anyone actually want to replicate theses sounds?
A team of U.S. Naval researchers have been working on that very problem for several years now, because it turns out that the humble cicada has naturally solved a compelling unmet challenge in underwater communication: how to make an extremely loud noise with a very small body using very little power.
At the 21st International Congress on Acoustics (ICA 2013), held June 2-7 in Montreal, the team, based at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Newport, RI, will present their latest results analyzing the cicada's sound first steps toward making devices that would mimic it for remote sensing underwater, ship-to-ship communications, rescue operations and other applications.
How Cicadas Make Their Sound
Humans have marveled at the periodic emergence of cicadas for thousands of years, and as far back as the 1940s, scientists have tried to uncover the secrets of this strange insect. But only recently has it been possible to carefully measure the physical properties of the cicada using lasers to simultaneously measure the vibration of its "tymbals," the corrugated exoskeleton on the insect responsible for its sound, explained Derke Hughes, a researcher at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center.
Hughes works on an unfunded project to uncover the insect's secrets in his spare time, collaborating with other volunteers. In Montreal, Hughes and his colleagues will present work on the nonlinear nature of cicada mating calls.
Their analysis shows is th
|Contact: Catherine Meyers|
American Institute of Physics