Shake It!

An earthworm atop an old mobile phone.

Vibrate a pool of water, and you’ll get Faraday waves, ripple-like excitations that form their own distinctive pattern compared to the driving vibration. But you don’t have to vibrate a pure liquid to see Faraday waves. A recent study observed them in vibrated earthworms!

Odd as this may sound, the results make sense. When anesthetized (as they were in the experiments), earthworms are essentially a liquid wrapped in an elastic membrane, which is not so different from a droplet held together by surface tension.

But why vibrate earthworms in the first place? It turns out earthworms are a good model organism for studies of vertebrate neural systems, so observing how vibrations propagate through them can provide insight into how our own nervous systems transmit information. (Image, research, and submission credit: I. Maksymov and A. Pototsky)

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