Posts tagged ‘bob full’

Treadmills for Insects

The other thing I meant to put up here was that on Wednesday, Robert J Full from Berkeley came to speak here. His talk was absolutely fascinating. He puts animals on treadmills and videotapes them. He then studies how they move, and tries to replicate this. He had some pretty funny videos of these treadmills – lizards, crabs, cockroaches, mice, even centipedes on these treadmills. However, he discovered some fascinating things from this. Geckos can stick to walls because their feet are covered in tiny hairs that are small enough and numerous enough to stick to things by van der Waals forces! For the not-so-scientifically inclined, these are by far the weakest intermolecular forces known (for example, they are what holds butter together). From his studies of cockroaches, he built a 6-legged robot that can go over incredibly rough terrain – he showed videos of it going up stairs, down volcanic craters, and through the forest. It was amazing! He also discussed some synthetic material he has developed that acts like muscle – when a small electric current is applied across it, it changes shape. It can expand, contract, or simply change shape. He has also developed robots that mimic crabs, snakes, and other animals. It was just fascinating.

Personally, this was even more amazing, because I’ve been reading about Dr. Full’s work since high school. I read about the gecko thing when it was published. I also read about the synthetic muscle when that was published. However, in Frosh Chem, I had to give a presentation on any topic I wanted, so long as it was chemistry-related. My roommate and I gave a joint presentation about geckos and van der Waals forces, and for that, we read the original research paper published in Nature. So I was quite excited to meet Dr. Full. I even got to talk to him for about 5 minutes Wednesday afternoon before the talk. So that was pretty neat. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, jump at the opportunity!