Think carefully

Question for the day, from Mike Booth @somegreybloke:

 Would you rather fight a thousand wasp sized mountain lions or one mountain lion sized wasp?


  1. Bjarte Foshaug says

    I wouldn’t be too worried about the wasp sized mountain lions, but I think I see where Randomfactor is going. To borrow an example from JBS Haldane:

    Let us take the most obvious of possible cases, and consider a giant man sixty feet high—about the height of Giant Pope and Giant Pagan in the illustrated Pilgrim’s Progress of my childhood. These monsters were not only ten times as high as Christian, but ten times as wide and ten times as thick, so that their total weight was a thousand times his, or about eighty to ninety tons. Unfortunately the cross sections of their bones were only a hundred times those of Christian, so that every square inch of giant bone had to support ten times the weight borne by a square inch of human bone. As the human thigh-bone breaks under about ten times the human weight, Pope and Pagan would have broken their thighs every time they took a step. This was doubtless why they were sitting down in the picture I remember. But it lessens one’s respect for Christian and Jack the Giant Killer.

  2. says

    Mountain-lion sized wasp would collapse of respiratory failure, be extremely fragile, and would barely be able to move, so that’s an easy decision.

    Oh, wait…wasp-sized mountain lions wouldn’t be able to sustain their metabolism at that size, so they’d die of starvation if hypothermia didn’t kill them first.

    So pretty much either one is safe.

  3. Jenora Feuer says

    Yeah, people keep forgetting that the square-cube law works in the other direction as well… heat generation scales by the body mass/volume, while heat loss scales by the skin area. Mice have to eat a fairly impressive percentage of their own body mass in food per day just to keep going.

  4. carlie says

    PZ – but they’d only need to sustain their metabolism long enough to eat you, so it wouldn’t matter much what happened to them after that point.

  5. Al Dente says

    One critter would be easier to keep track of than 1000 critters, so I’m voting for one mountain-lion sized wasp. Besides, a mountain lion-sized wasp would be immobile. Its legs would be too slender and fragile to hold its body weight and it certainly wouldn’t be airworthy.

  6. sqlrob says

    Oh, wait…wasp-sized mountain lions wouldn’t be able to sustain their metabolism at that size, so they’d die of starvation if hypothermia didn’t kill them first.

    This looks like it could be shrewish sized, so it might be able maintain metabolism.

  7. natashatasha says

    I would go for the mountain lion sized wasp, because I’m not sure whether the wasp-sized mountain lions would live long enough to do me any harm before failing as an organism, but I’m positive the wasp wouldn’t.

  8. jagwired says

    Defintely a thousand wasp sized mountain lions, but I don’t know if I’d be able to fight them — they’d be way too cute. I’d have to gather them all up in a shoe box and take them home.

  9. splen says

    Interesting. So could a swarm of starving wasp sized mountain lions theoretically confuse you for long enough to make you trip and impale yourself on the stinger of the collapsed mountain lion sized wasp carcass? The stinger is its defence mechanism which it uses for defence.

    More to the point can I use this information to recommend women walk around in bee-keeper outfits just in case?

  10. screechymonkey says

    But what if the mountain lions had been reduced to wasp-size by Pym Particles, and retained their strength?

  11. karmacat says

    I am definitely with jagwired – wasp sized mountain lions would be cute. So would they nibble you to death. Do mountain lions roar? if so, would a thousand wasp sized ones sound like buzzing?

  12. Jackie teh kitteh cuddler says

    One thousand wasp sized mountain lions in my house?

    I imagine it would look like what happens when I blow bubbles in the house…only messier and full of crunching noises.

    I’ll take that one.

    The dead giant wasp would probably smell.

  13. brucegee1962 says

    I’m assuming that cube-square laws are in abeyance, and that I encounter both critters in alternate universes where they are capable of hunting and existing.

    In those situations, I would definitely prefer the wasp-size mountain lions. I’m assuming that, if they’re like our mountain lions, their typical prey tends to be of their size or slightly smaller, so I wouldn’t have much to fear, whereas I’d be exactly the same size as the big wasp’s typical prey. Also, mountain lions don’t usually hunt in packs, so they won’t be very well-coordinated. And they don’t have poison, so they wouldn’t be as bad as army ants.

  14. latsot says

    Great, now I’m terrified of mountain-sized wasp-lions.

    I am not afraid of mountain-sized lion-wasps.

  15. Scr... Archivist says

    Is this some kind of atheist koan?

    I agree that the weight issues of a mountain-lion-sized wasp would be fatal to it. But another reason is that they are easy to defeat, even before that happens. Just throw the necklace into the water.

  16. leftwingfox says

    Is this some kind of atheist koan?

    It’s the science nerd’s version of “Which fictional character would win in a fight.”

    (Spoiler: It’s Mr. Rogers.)

  17. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    It’s the science nerd’s version of “Which fictional character would win in a fight.”

    (Spoiler: It’s Mr. Rogers.)

    Cavemen vs. Astronauts

  18. freemage says

    Assuming survivability of both creatures, I’ll take the wasp-sized mountain lions. In addition to the prior discussion regarding their likely prey and general cuteness, I note that in the unlikely event that they did swarm and attack, they could be suitably sated with nothing more than a couple pounds of raw meat. The wasp, though, is looking for a kill and nothing but a kill. Also, if I ran into the wasp, I’d never sleep again, so I’d be dead in a few weeks, most likely.

  19. Omar Puhleez says

    There was a young man from Dundee,
    Who got stung on the arm by a wasp,
    When asked if it hurt
    He said no it didn’t
    But it was lucky it wasn’t a hornet.

  20. Stacy says

    I would love the thousand wasp-sized mountain lions, and hold them and pet them on their tiny heads and call them George. All of them.

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