On nature's wheels and recycling lessons

Apparently the lowly dung beetle not only invented celestial navigation before humans did, they also invented the wheel before people did, too.


Notice that the article's photo of a dung beetle that is rolling along its prize rounded hunk of food, an object made into a round shape and rolled along to some hiding place to eat it in peace.

The dung beetle is rolling the object it made into a round shape so that it could be moved by rolling it, instead of carrying it like ants do to their food being moved.

Humans learned to move heavy objects that were flat on the bottom, by rolling the object on top of round logs, and each time moving the just-passed log back up to the front to again become a roller, kind of like a tank's treads move.

Maybe the round ball the dung beetle made was more correctly named a "ball bearing" instead of a "wheel," and the logs being a "roller bearing" similarly, instead of being called a wheel.

Maybe I ought to look up the definition of a wheel in the dictionary, but am having more fun pondering the question myself first. To be a wheel, must it have an axel that supports load, and an outer round perimeter that is larger than the axel? Maybe even also requiring a specially made sliding surface between the axel and the load it bears, thus enabling the load to be moved by sliding on a special slick surface while the larger reality is the movement along an outer rugged and non-slippery surface? Or even rotating on much smaller ball bearings that interface the axel with its load, and the outer perimeter of the wheel? It seems to me that the roller-bearing and the roller log are just such wheels with an outer perimeter the same as the axel's perimeter.

And similarly the ball bearing being such a roller bearing that is round in all directions. And thus the dung beetle's creation to move food easily, is the invention of the wheel before people did it.

We have long known that we can learn lots by observing nature, thus saving ourselves lots of trouble in figuring out how to do something new.

The dung beetle is also a wonderful recycler. I recall reading years ago about a farmer that had fed his cattle a strong insecticide to rid them of some infestation, but the insecticide stayed in the cattle's output dung, and the farmer's field was littered with cow patties that just stayed intact, since the insecticide killed the dung beetles that normally recycle the cow patties down into the ground; thus the cow patties did not get recycled and just stayed put littering the field.

It is much easier to let the dung beetle do the recycling, instead of the farmer having to pick up the field's litter after the cattle made their deposits.

Some food for thought, including regarding the industrial wastes our civilization produces: does it go away by itself, or even do so after being hidden by burying it in a landfill?

More basically, what generally happens to critters that foul their nest? Cows have dung beetles and the rest of the diverse biosystem to clean up their "nest", but what do human often-toxic industries have?

Perhaps we can invent a robot dung beetle that goes around collecting industrial discards like old TVs and mine tailings, and hauls it away somewhere to placidly take its time munching the trash and powering itself and making copies of itself out of civilization's industrial dung.


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