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On September 17th, 1998 the Ithaca Journal ran its first "Ask A Scientist!" article in which Professor Neil Ashcroft , who was then the director of CCMR, answered the question "What is Jupiter made of?" Since then, we have received over 1,000 questions from students and adults from all over the world. Select questions are answered weekly and published in the Ithaca Journal and on our web site. "Ask A Scientist!" reaches more than 21,000 Central New York residents through the Ithaca Journal and countless others around the world throught the "Ask a Scientist!" web site.

Across disciplines and across the state, from Nobel Prize winning scientist David Lee to notable science education advocate Bill Nye, researchers and scientists have been called on to respond to these questions. For more than seven years, kids - and a few adults - have been submitting their queries to find out the answer to life's everyday questions.

Previous Week's Question Published: 14 October, 2004 Next Week's Question
Crickets come out at night to avoid (most) predators
Why do crickets make noise at night?

When you hear crickets chirping at night, that is the sound of males trying to attract females. A female cricket may fly over great distances as she homes in on the calling song of a male. The journey can be risky, because it exposes her to predators, but it is necessary if she is to mate and lay eggs to produce the next generation of crickets. Hungry birds and mammals are major predators on insects during the day. Many insects, including crickets, avoid these predators by hiding during the day and becoming active only at night, when birds and mammals cannot see them. That is why you hear crickets mostly after dark. However, over millions of years, some mammals evolved special senses so that they could eat insects that fly in the dark. These are the bats, which find insects by echolocation. Hunting bats make sounds that are so high-pitched that we can't even hear them. These sounds echo off moths, crickets, and other insects. The bat hears the echo and uses it to find its food. Of course, the story doesn't end there. Many insects have developed the ability to hear the bat's high-pitched sounds, and can steer away from bats or even drop out of the sky when they hear danger. So the female cricket, avoiding birds by flying at night, also keeps an ear out for bats as she listens for her mate.