For about three minutes, part of the migrating swarm passed over the electric field monitor. This revealed a net positive field intensity of 100 volts per meter at peak density. This effect was not observed in a second control meter positioned in the open field 50 meters away from the swarm. In several other swarming events, net positive increases in atmospheric charge have been observed up to 1,000 volts per meter.
This is in the same range as the charge near the ground created by a thundercloud.
The article doesn’t try to determine how the bees become electrets, how they maintain and control a positive charge wrt the atmosphere. Cells vary their charge all the time within an organism, exchanging sodium and calcium ions with neighboring cells. This wouldn’t work with the atmosphere, a constantly moving ‘sink’ for charges.
The article also doesn’t try to ask why bees control their charge. One known reason is communicating with flowers.
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This morning’s science news about bees and ions adds another piece to the old Shepardson puzzle. Polistra has been following an old idea, written up by George Shepardson in 1901, that (some) plants live more by trading electrons than by absorbing sunlight.
Today’s item indicates that (some) plants use negative charge intentionally to attract bees. When a flower is ready for bee service, the plant charges it negatively. Bees, who are always charged positively from the friction of flapping around in the air, sense the negative field and head for it. The contact of bee to flower discharges both sides, so the bee can tell which flowers are used up.
Shepardson’s special theme was that pointy things act as centers for charge transfer. Pine needles have very little sunlight-absorbing area and excellent charge-absorbing qualities, so it’s reasonable to assume that their main function is to gather electrons, not to gather sunlight. Similarly, bumblebees are hairy so they can sense the static signals from flowers.
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I was assuming that the bees gathered charge by flapping their wings, which is an inadequate explanation.
Let’s review our proverbial Martian demonstrating his disc’s propulsion and charge-control system. His uniform has been slightly restyled.
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In the ’47-65 period when disc UFOs were reported everywhere, several people saw a disc hovering over a lake or pond, siphoning or pumping large quantities of water. This wouldn’t make sense for an electric motor or even a small nuclear plant. Our long-distance satellites have mini nuke reactors, and they don’t need water.
Taking on water might make sense if the disc is powered by electrohydrodynamics. Observing The Anomaly has been studying the efforts to replicate the discs, mainly carried out at Stanford Research Institute in the ’60s. One line of experimentation was trying EHD, which was first discovered much earlier.
Everything was discovered in England in 1840.
Not 100% true, but pretty damn close. And a lot of the discoveries were in the northern parts of England, not in London.
William Armstrong of Newcastle, born wealthy, trained and worked as a lawyer for a while. His real interest was hydraulics, and he started developing hydraulic tools and cranes for mining. His cranes and safety valves were successful and profitable. While discussing his products with miners, he repeatedly heard a strange phenomenon:
Attention had been turned to the statements of workmen at Cramlington Collieries that, in attempting to adjust the safety valve while steam was blowing off, they had experienced severe electric shocks.
The Wimshurst dry static generator was a popular entertainment in that time and place, so Armstrong recognized what the miners were feeling.
In the Wimshurst, metal strips on the two glass discs constantly pass each other as the discs rotate oppositely. If one strip on the front disc has slightly more negative charge, it will push electrons out of every strip it passes on the back disc. In turn, each of those slightly positive strips on the back disc will cause a slight increase in negativity on each strip it passes on the first disc. Soon all the strips on the front disc are strongly negative compared to the back disc, and the charge will be strong enough to break over and spark at the business end of the conductors.
Since his boilers were already generating strong charges with steam, Armstrong thought he might be able to optimize the effect and branch out into the newly popular fields of electricity and telegraphy. Armstrong varied the structure of the safety valve and came up with an extremely powerful wet static machine.
In this apparatus, steam was made to issue through wooden nozzles, perforated with a crooked passage in order to increase the friction. The collector consisted of a row of spikes placed in the path of the steam jets issuing from the nozzles, and was supported, together with a brass ball which served as a prime conductor, upon a glass pillar.
The same sort of imbalance causes the boiler to become more negative than the spike strip, until the imbalance breaks over and sparks.
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Our Martian friend knows how his charge-vortex machines work, so he is happy to demonstrate the earliest terrestrial version of his familiar engine.
Here he’s stoking the fire.
The tank above the fire is filled with water, generating steam in the usual way.
The entire boiler and pipe system is mounted on glass to insulate it from the ground, and the target is also mounted on a glass column. The target is a brass ball to hold charge, and the spikes concentrate charge on their ends to encourage sparking.
Here he’s turning the valve to let steam into the six outlet pipes, where the steam ‘rubs’ against a dielectric and induces a negative charge in the pipes.
Now the steam is whistling and sparking merrily. Just what he needs to create a charge vortex!
Closeup of the nozzles and steam:
The inside of each nozzle has a ‘flipper’ similar to a pipe organ, developing vortices in the steam. This was part of Armstrong’s design, not my speculation.
His Wet Wimshurst never reached commercial success, probably because the dry machine was much less messy and troublesome. Just turn the crank.
We can imagine a small guild of independent or government-sponsored engineers continuing to perfect the design for aircraft….. Or engineers ‘elsewhere’ perfecting the technique much earlier.
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Armstrong was copying, intentionally or otherwise, the spiracles of an insect.
The spiracles can be opened and closed in an efficient manner to reduce water loss. This is done by contracting closer muscles surrounding the spiracle. In order to open, the muscle relaxes. The closer muscle is controlled by the central nervous system but can also react to localized chemical stimuli.
Look at this drawing. Seems familiar. The valve on the spiracle could perform the same ‘dielectric-rubbing’ function as the organ-flipper in Armstrong’s EHD.