A chemical secreted by an animal, especially an insect, that influences the behavior or development of others of the same species.
[Greek pherein, to carry
- pher´omon´al adjective
Pheromone, any chemical produced by an animal that affects the behavior of other animals. Pheromones are found throughout the living world. The complex but primitive single-celled amoeba Dictyostelium, for example, uses a pheromone to attract others of its kind for reproduction. Insects regularly use pheromones for the same purpose. Social insects- insects that live together in groups- usually have many pheromonal messages. Ants, for example, usually have a pheromone for marking trails to food, another for starting attacks on enemies, a third that signals the need to flee, and others that identify their larvae in the darkness of the nest.
Pheromones are also common in vertebrates. Mammals regularly mark their territorial boundaries with pheromones from specialized glands. These odors can be detected at great distances and can alter behavior dramatically. Vertebrates also have additional odors that identify animals individually. Neighboring mammals of many species recognize one another by the odors that each leaves along mutual boundaries or at traditional scenting posts, and intruders are detected almost immediately. Even mates and offspring often recognize one another by odor.
KAS: Pheromones I believe are an essential part of our
development, yet it seems that human beings are losing their olfactory sense.
Perhaps rather than relying solely upon the semantic universe to interpret meaning,
we could become aware of the communication happening between people on a chemical
T.M.: Well, that's an interesting idea. I'd never thought of that. I can imagine a kind of Tantric psychedelic alchemy where the purpose of all the sexuality was actually the production of some kind of pheromone which was psychedelic. If you look at pheromones at the molecular level they are rather like drugs. For example, both tend to be aromatic, in other words, tend to have electronically active ring structures that indicates aromaticity. We could pursue this speculatively, but it may be that Tantra is basically a make-your-own-drug laboratory program where you need a person of the opposite sex and then unusual physiological activities to produce unusual physiological byproducts. I think the world is still waiting for the real expositors of Tantra to explain just what it is all about.
We are developing techniques for coordinating the actions of large numbers of small-scale robots to achieve useful large-scale results in surveillance, reconnaissance, hazard detection, and path finding. Inspired by the chemical markers used by insects for communication and coordination, we exploit the notion of a "virtual pheromone," implemented using simple beacons and directional sensors mounted on each robot. Virtual pheromones facilitate simple communication and coordination and require little on-board processing. Collections of robots will be able to perform complex tasks such as leading the way through a building to a hidden intruder or locating critical choke points. This is possible because the robot collective becomes a computing grid embedded in the environment. The user interface to this distributed robot collective is itself distributed. Instead of communicating with each robot individually, the entire collective works cooperatively to provide a unified world-embedded display. Our methods need no explicit maps or models of the environment, and require no explicit knowledge of robot locations yet they still allow such global quantities as shortest routes, blocked routes, and contingency plans to be computed by the robot population.