Matin Durrani - Science Journalist

Spotify playlist - Furry Logic: Light

Posted by Matin Durrani on 3 November 2016

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For completeness, I've now created a Spotify playlist for some of the animals featured in the final chapter on light in the new book I've written with Liz Kalaugher called Furry Logic: The Physics of Animal Life.

I have to admit finding songs for this playlist was a bit of a struggle. Obviously, I thought of adding something from Adam and the Ants to go along with the desert ants that use polarized light from the Sun to navigate. But once I trawled through their back catalague, I realised most of it was a pile of p-ants. So it didn't go in.

For the record, here are the songs featured.

* Kisses on a Plate by Ant - having vetoed Adam and the Ants on the grounds of generally 80s crapness (see above), I've plumped for a song that has nothing to do with ants, but is by a guy called Ant (real name Antony Harding). Some ants navigate home using polarized light after finding food. You could say it's a skill that's been handed to them on a plate.

* Bumblebee by Joseph Vincent - a lovely song by a Californian "acoustic singer songwriter" that I've put in to celebrate honeybees' marvellous ability to navigate back to their hives after finding nectar. They then do a waggle dance to tell other bees the direction to food. Okay we're talking honeybees not bumblebees, but hey...

* The Cuckoo by Kristin Hersh - a 1994 arrangement of a traditional English folk song by former Throwing Muses founder, which goes in to honour the Horsfield's hawk-cuckoo chicks. They have a bright yellow ultraviolet-reflecting patch on the undersides of their wings that looks like the gaping mouth of a hungry youngster. This tricks their foster parents into thinking there are more chicks in the nest so they bring extra food. Turns out, though, that by using physics tools to model what a bird (rather than a human) sees, the chick's gaping mouth is more visible to its foster parents than the gaping mouth of one of their own chicks. So there.

* Kurious Oranj by The Fall - a 1988 song I'd never have thought of if it hadn't been suggested by Bloomsbury publisher Jim Martin. The Fall, led by the ever-present Mark E Smith. are seriously creative and/or mad (take your pick). I don't know a huge amount about The Fall I have to admit, but this song is wonderfully bonkers and goes in because of the orange/yellow-mouthed cuckoos (see above).

* Dark Places by Quinn Archer - sadly I could find nothing on Spotify related to the archer fish, which lives just below the surface of tropical lakes and rivers, so this is close enough. When an archer fish spots an tasty insect on a leaf above water, it spits a jet of water that hits the prey, which falls into the water. As if that wasn't clever enough, the fish does all this while taking the bending, or refraction, of light into account as it travels from air into water. It's a master of that trick otherwise it would certainly be in a dark place underwater, where light doesn't penetrate far.

* Octopus I Love You by Dalmatian Rex and the Eigentones - like the octopus, which lives deep in the oceans, this song has been dredged up from the depths of Spotify. Hailing from Leicester, this song is in because octopus are seriously odd animals, turning pale when they're angry and black just before a kill. They can even go red to hide from bioluminescent torchlight-wielding fish in the ocean depths, where there's almost no liglht from the sky above - and being transparent makes you more visible. I also like the link to physics: an eigentone is "a tone liable to cause resonance in a particular space".

* Island Moon by Squid - a cheesily melodic song by a band I can't seem to find much about (okay make that nothing). But giant squid are brilliant animals, famed for having the world's biggest eyes. That's "biologically expensive", but it's worth it for spotting the tiny specks of light given off by bioluminescent plankton as a sperm whale swims through them. By detecting this faint glow when the whale is far away, the squid has enough time to swim out of range of its predator's sonar beam and escape into the deep-sea gloom.