Neglecting Gravity

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As Stephen Jay Gould writes in “Size and Shape” we are prisoners of the perceptions of our size, and rarely recognize how different the world must appear to the very small. Since our relative surface area is so small at our large size, we are ruled by gravitational forces acting upon our weight. But gravity is negligible to very small animals with high surface to volume ratios; they live in a world dominated by surface forces and judge the pleasures and dangers of their surroundings in ways foreign to our experience. An insect performs no miracle in walking up a wall or upon the surface of a pond; the small gravitational force pulling it down or under is easily counteracted by surface adhesion. Throw an insect off the roof and it floats gently down as frictional forces acting upon its surface overcome the weak influence of gravity.

Falling is not a verb in the insect world. It simply doesn’t exist.

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