So yeah, moths can drive cars. How about that?

This can’t be a good thing. Well, not if you’re a lady moth anyway.

Right about now is when we’re expected to be banging on about messing with nature and writing stuff in caps like NOW THEY CAN DRIVE, but honestly, it’s not like it’s going to ram minority workers and take an ax to the back of the head or anything like that.

It’s just your average male silkmoth walking on a pingpong ball thing, tracking down a woman relentlessly so he can mate with her. So much so, he battles a wind tunnel to get to his prey.

And it’s a great idea. Kudos goes  to lead author of the research, Dr Noriyasu Ando, of the University of Tokyo.

You can watch it now and go away. Or stay after the jump for the why.

Here’s how they did it.

First of all – the wind tunnel. Because moths fly, right? So they need to be able to locate and chase sexy scents in a breeze.

The pheromone was placed at one end, the moth at the other. Attached to a car, driven by responses from the pingpong ball (polystyrene, to be precise), which rolled as the moth walked over it.

And just to make it harder, the scientists put a steering bias on one side so they could watch how the moth “learns” to drive. And because it’s funnier.

“The best way to elicit adaptive behaviours of insects is to put them into extraordinary situations,” Dr Ando said.

“We need training to ride such bicycles smoothly but the silkmoth overcomes the situation with only simple and fast sensory-motor feedbacks.”

And why?

The male silkworm has a huge sex drive and it’s also quite easy to handle in a lab environment compared to, say, a mountain lion.

And it allowed the team to watch a thought process form in the moth’s brain from a single neuron spark to its overall behaviour in working towards a target.

Which of course, will one day be applied to proper robots.

“By creating an ‘artificial brain’ based on the knowledge of the silkmoth’s individual neurons and tracking behaviour, we hope to implement it into a mobile robot that will be equal to the insect-controlled robot developed in this study,” Dr Ando said.

Yes it will. Relentless, stalking, killer robots.

Comments are closed.