Science Sunday: Interminable Termites
Much like our own world, the world of Chronsylvania is full of strange phenomena. Every Sunday we'll highlight an article that explores the strange, and very real, scientific properties of our universe. We'll also leave you with a writing/drawing prompt based on the article to get your creative juices flowing.
This week’s article highlights a surprising discovery scientists in Brazil found when they were reviewing satellite photos of the country from Google Earth: Termite Mounds. Thousands of them, some up to ten feet tall, dotting the landscape of a semi-arid, low-brush forest. Upon further study, the scientists learned that the mounds are the result of a complex network of subterranean tunnels termites dug and have used for potentially several thousand years to gain access to dead leaves and other food sources buried underground. The tunnel network is so vast that it covers the same landmass as the entirety of Great Britain.
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What has left scientists most stunned about this discovery is not the engineering knowledge of the termites who built this tunnel system that spans thousands of miles, nor is it the sheer size of the tunnel network. No, what has floored most scientists is the fact that something so huge could exist right under humanity's feet for thousands of years, completely unnoticed by all of the measuring instruments of the modern scientific world.
It's not as if this tunnel network is some ancient ruin of a bygone era. Termites still live in these tunnels, and they are digging deeper, still expanding their network. I don't know about you, but this discovery sends some serious Lovecraftian shivers down my spine. How can we humans claim to know our world, and our place in it, if it took us several thousand years to notice termites building a civilization right under our feet? Maybe there are forces at work in our physical world that we can barely even dream of, let alone fully witness and understand.
And if the sheer size and magnitude of this heretofore undiscovered megalith of entomological engineering doesn't make you question whether humans truly are the dominant species on this planet, consider this:
No one has ever found the chamber for this species of termite's queen.
I wonder what that bad mama looks like.
Creative Prompt: After years of study into these tunnels, an international team of Geologists, Entomologists, and Biologists have discovered a massive underground entrance to the Chamber of the Termite Queen. And you, oh lucky you, have been selected as the chief recording scientist on this expedition. Your job: to record absolutely everything you experience within the Queen's lair.
The trip down is easy enough. The floor of the tunnel has been packed hard by foot traffic and your way is lit by a string of dim orange light bulbs overhead. But soon, you hit a point where the lights stop. The leader your group turns to you all and says, "Alright everyone, flashlights."
You turn on your flashlight and after walking for ten minutes in the crushing dark, come to a door. A massive door. It is easily twenty feet wide, forty feet high, and decorated with strange and intricate carvings. You take a step forward to study the carvings, but you stop dead in your tracks when you hear a skittering sound. As if a hundred thousand tiny legs are scratching at the dirt around the gargantuan door frame. And before you can even take a step back, a crack emerges in the exact center of the door, and it begins to grind open.
Write/draw about what you see/hear/smell/feel/do when you walk into the Chamber of the Termite Queen.
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