Bugs Jump Really High #tmwyk

“Mama! Bugs can jump so high!”

I turned my head quickly, expecting to see a large insect launching itself into the air. Nothing. It turns out, five year old N was merely thinking about bugs.

“Bugs are so tiny but they can jump so high. They jump higher than humans!”

“Like higher than my head?” I asked him, extending a stiff hand out from my forehead to indicate the height.

“You don’t jump very high, mama,” N said sternly. “You don’t jump up to your head.”

Solid point.

N continued: “bugs are tiny, and they jump high! But you know what jumps really high? Frogs!

Leaping and Length

N’s observation reminded me of this graph from one of my favorite books, Animals by the Numbers, by Steve Jenkins. (This book is also the source of the infamous “deadly animals” slow reveal graph that I’ve used in a number of PD sessions.) On page 11, we have:

From Steve Jenkins’ Animal by the Numbers (2016); click image to enlarge

I love how this graph shows some complex information. In orange, we have the distance of typical leaps by species. measured both in feed and meters. In red, we have the multiplicative relationship between the distance jumped and the the typical length of an adult.

Some things I notice:

  • The snow leopard has the longest leap amongst the species listed.
  • The snow leopard’s jump of 50 feet/15 meters is 10x its body length.
  • The flea has the smallest leap among the species listed, but that 13 in/33cm leap is roughly 100x its body length.
  • The larger the animal, the larger the jump, but the smaller the scale factor for the measure comparing jump to body length.
  • The smaller the animal, the smaller the jump but the larger the scale factor for the measure comparing jump to body length.
  • The two above statements aren’t perfect. Sometimes, an animal jumps a slightly shorter distance and the number for the “x body length” measure is smaller.

Some things I wonder:

  • What would these measures look like for humans?
  • Is there a general advantage to being a quadruped (four-legged animal) over a bipedal (two-legged) animal?
  • How is this data collected?
  • What other species might be interesting to include?

It would be easy to move up the ladder of inference with just this one infographic alone. This sort of dense infographic — generous with information — makes for a great slow reveal graph, too, so that the facilitator chunks the information, and builds a narrative.

“Frogs jump so high!”

N has an intuitive sense of proportionality with jumps. I picked up a lego minifigure from the floor of N’s room — and, my goodness, is the floor littered with options — and asked N to show me how the figure would jump.

The Minifigure jumped an inch or two in the ground. Honestly, the jump was at least a full body length, which is more than I am capable of.

“What if there were a frog in your room? How high would it jump?”

N, still crouched quite low, made a reasonable estimate, modeling the arc of a frog’s jump with a finger. “Frogs jump so high!”

“I bet I can jump higher than that. What do you think it?”

“But the frog is small and jumps high, and you’re big and jump small,” he added. Fair.

“And so…”

“Mama, don’t you think you’re asking a lot of questions?” N interrupted.

“I guess so! Would you like me to stop asking questions?”

“YES,” N said, as he turned his attention to a lego pirate ship. He made sounds to imitate crashing waves. He moved the minifigure all around the deck, jumping from deck to crow’s nest. It was a big jump.

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