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The Physics of Gecko Toes

Why would anyone want to know the details of physical forces when gecko feet walk on glass?  Here’s why: “The results have obvious implications for the fabrication of dry adhesives and robotic systems inspired by the gecko’s locomotion mechanism.”  A team of scientists from Santa Barbara and China watched gecko toes peel off glass and […]

Darwin Missed the Beetle Can Opener Trick

You know those big horns on rhinoceros beetles?  They’re not just for showing off.  Scientists at Indiana University found a “surprising function” for them.  It turns out “horned beetles use their young horns as a sort of can opener, helping them bust out of thick larval shells.”  The function of horned beetles’ wild protrusions has […]

Little Animals, Big Technologies

You can’t always say bigger is better.  In the animal world, some of the smallest critters have capabilities that belie their size and compare well with their less dimensionally-challenged brethren.  Bee secure:  Honeybees are being trained to sniff bombs.  Really.  Read all about it in a press release from Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Bees were […]

Scientists Force Rapid Natural Selection in Lizards

Scientists transported a predator to a Caribbean island and watched some of the lizards evolve longer legs to run faster.  Then, as some of them took to climbing trees, their hind legs grew shorter.  They are calling this a test of natural selection, and are amazed the effects took effect so rapidly – in one […]

You’ll Love Beetle-Foot Tape

If beetles can do it, scientists should be able to: climb the wall, that is.  Some researchers at Max Planck Institute have invented an adhesive that sticks to glass like beetle feet.  The secret was to manufacture thousands of microscopic pads that adhere to smooth surfaces by van der Waals forces (the attraction of neighboring […]

Bees Make Beeline to the Headlines

The science journals and media were abuzz with honeybee stories this week.  We counted 18 press releases and half a dozen research papers related to aspects of honeybees, including the publication of the honeybee genome.  Many research labs seem to have gotten into the act of figuring out what makes bees tick.  The major stories […]

Oxygen YoYos and Wings

Molecular oxygen: you can’t live with it, and you can’t live without it.  We breathe it in constantly or else we would turn blue and die within minutes.  Yet we take antioxidants because of the harm that oxygen radicals can wreak in our cells.  Like fire, it is a useful substance, but only when tightly […]

Tarantula Spins Silk from Feet

Surprise: a Costa Rican tarantula can spin silk from the tips of its feet.  A team of German and American scientists writing in Nature1 coaxed one of these heavy, hairy spiders to walk vertically up glass, and was astonished to find it ejecting silky threads that arrested its slipping and enabled it to cling.  They […]

Eye Sends Information at Ethernet Rates

Neuroscientists from Pennsylvania and New Jersey calculated the information rate of the eye.  Using guinea pigs (real guinea pigs, not humans as guinea pigs), they came up with a number and interpolated it for humans: In the classic “What the frog’s eye tells the frog’s brain,” Lettvin and colleagues showed that different types of retinal […]

Is This Frog Marrow Really 10 Million Years Old?

LiveScience reported finding intact bone marrow from fossils of frogs and salamanders.  Without blinking an eye, reporter Ker Than croaked that the marrow is ten million years old.  He compared it with the intact soft tissue and blood cells found in a T. rex specimen last year (see 02/22/2006, 06/03/2005, 03/24/2005), and said, The discovery […]

Chinese “Living Fossil” Amphibians Found

World Net Daily found a story on People’s Daily Online that 1200 specimens of an amphibian, Hynobiidaes, have been found in southwest China.  The article states, “These are a type of amphibian species around 300 million years old that once used to live in the dinosaur period.” Other news sources have not yet reported this […]

Ant Pedometer Discovered

Ants have dumbfounded scientists again.  It appears they count their steps when they walk, and keep track how far they have gone.  Reporting in Science,1 a trio of German and Swiss scientists tested desert ants by making some walk on specially-designed stilts and others walk on stumps of cut-off legs.  The first overshot their target, […]

Science Reporters Spin Spider Web Data Into Evolutionary Program

A spider was found perfectly preserved in amber (fossil tree sap), complete with its web and prey.  It is identical to modern spiders.  Isn’t evolution amazing?     If you just experienced a software crash, there must be something wrong with your BIOS.  All the news media ran that program just fine.  A patch is […]

Foot Facts: Frogs and Flies Fulfill Feet Feats

How do frogs walk on wet leaves without slipping?  Eric Jaffe in Science News1 describes how they have dual-purpose footwear: a mucous film that holds on by wet adhesion, plus microscopic bumps that protrude above the wet layer to make dry contact.  Though a frog foot doesn’t appear as fancy as that of a gecko, […]

Bioneers Update: International Conference Held on Animal-Inspired Design

Georgia Tech came out with a press release about progress at their Center for Biologically Inspired Design (CBID) that opened last year (see 10/29/2005).  At a two-day conference May 11-12, international representatives from 20 institutions shared their inspirations on how nature can “help them solve some of the most complex problems of the day,” just […]
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