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Latest ITER Newsline

  • The magnet lab next door

    Two and a half years ago ITER and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) entered a collaborationto prepare for the challenging task [...]

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  • Activity on every floor

    At every floor of the Tokamak Complex—from the lowest underground level (B2) all the way to the second regular level of the bioshield (L2)—there is intense acti [...]

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  • Bringing the Research Plan up to date

    The ITER Research Plan is an ITER baseline document which outlines the main lines of science and technology research derived from the project's mission goals. [...]

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  • Further validation for ring magnet fabrication

    Once a component mockup has been produced—and before fabrication can begin on the actual component or system—a manufacturing readiness review is required to ens [...]

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  • First central solenoid module ready for heat treatment

    In a major milestone, the US contractor responsible for the fabrication of the ITER central solenoid has successfully joined seven individual coil sections, or [...]

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Of Interest

See archived articles

All summer long cicadas sing their song

-Robert Arnoux

The song of the male cicada is one of the loudest any insect can produce. (Click to view larger version...)
The song of the male cicada is one of the loudest any insect can produce.
Summer days in Provence are filled with the sound of cicadas. As soon as the temperature rises above 28 °C, the air begins to vibrate with their song, one of the loudest any insect can produce. Some cicadas' songs can reach up to 120 dB, as loud as a power saw or a motorcycle.

Whether you call it noise or music, the cicadas' song is a love call. It is the eternal story of the male seeking his partner, and not being very discreet about it at that...

Unlike crickets, who rub their legs together to produce a "stridulation", male cicadas possess a special membrane, called a "timbal", that they contract and relax at very high speed.

Amplified by their abdomen, which is almost hollow, the fast-following clicks create the deafening noise that is characteristic of summers in Provence.

But so much for entomology...

Besides being a symbol of Provence — one can find kitsch ceramic cicadas in just about every tourist store — the cicada is synonymous in the French language and culture of mindlessness and insouciance. And this is all due to Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695).

One of the most famous pieces of the French fabulist, called La Cigale et la Fourmi, generally and wrongfully translated in English as The Cricket and the Ant, features the thrifty, hard-working little ant who spends his summer collecting food for "when the north wind doth blow", and the happy-go-lucky cicada who does nothing but "sing her song all summer long."

Every schoolboy in France knows by heart La Fontaine's fable ''The Cicada and the Ant'', a parable about the virtue of work and saving. (Click to view larger version...)
Every schoolboy in France knows by heart La Fontaine's fable ''The Cicada and the Ant'', a parable about the virtue of work and saving.
When winter comes, the cicada goes begging to her neighbour the ant "for a little grain 'til summer comes back again". The ant in the fable however, being self-righteous and stingy, replies with: "You sang did you?", "Well, dance now!"

Every schoolboy in France learns this fable by heart at primary school. This is why only foreigners rejoice in the summer song of the cicada. For all former French schoolboys, it is the sound of an impending drama — the winter starvation of the carefree cicada.


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