A researcher at Caltech is developing new ways to power submarines and windmills using the lowly jellyfish. Jellyfish have a unique method of swimming through ocean water. Rather than using fins and flippers, they “pump” their body to produce ring-shaped pulses of water called vortex rings. These vortex rings are spinning, donut-shaped masses of water that the jellyfish uses as a launch pad to propel itself forward through the water. This type of swimming is much more efficient than pushing water backward in a single stream.
Continue reading a much more efficient impellent for submarines
Many sea creatures including dolphins, porpoises, and whales have a tail structure that results in impressive bursts of speed. Their tail fin, called a fluke, is waved back and forth to provide forward motion. Meanwhile, the pectoral and dorsal fins provide directional stability. Dolphins reach speeds of 30-40 miles/hour (48-64 km/hr) and can leap completely out of water. Similarly, massive whales are able to breach or break from the water surface as they churn their tails.
Continue reading Dolphin-Monofin
Brazil’s Amazon waterways are home to the feared piranha. The razor-like teeth of these aggressive fish make quick work of most prey. However, large Arapaima fish share space with piranha, even in crowded ponds. Arapaima are one of the largest freshwater fish, reaching 300 pounds and a length of 8 feet (2.5 meters).
Piranhas have learned that the Arapaima’s armor-like protective scales cannot be overcome. These scales have a hard, mineralized shell-like surface which is anchored to underlying flexible muscle.
body construction, flexible ceramic
Continue reading airtight and flexible, the Arampaima skin
Injuries to the spine are some of the most serious challenges in medicine. We are all familiar with the tragedy of paralysis which may result from spinal trauma. In mammals, including people, a protective mechanism results in an unfavorable side effect to spinal trauma. Following an injury, cells called glia are activated which flood the area of inflammation. These cells result in a buildup of scar tissue which becomes a chemical and physical barrier to the growth and repair of nerves at the injury site.
Continue reading Zebrafish – Spine Repair
Chameleons display many design features including changing skin color and stereoscopic eyesight. Another feature is their ability to capture insects with an extended tongue. Upon sighting fresh prey, the chameleon quickly extends its tongue to twice its body length. The tongue moves outward at ten meters per second (33 ft/sec). Once released, the tongue is in free flight and unguided, so it must be launched with precision. In addition, the tongue must exert very little force to make a sticky capture without pushing the target insect away.
Continue reading mimic the chameleons tongue will offer new robot arms
In 1935, inventor Paul Sperry sought a solution to a problem encountered in his hobby of sailing off the shore of New England. Whenever the boat deck became wet, it was slippery and dangerous. One winter day during a walk, he noticed that his cocker spaniel remained surefooted, even on slippery sidewalks. Sperry later examined the dog’s paws closely and noticed wave-like grooves on the pads.
grip on slippery surfaces
Continue reading dog paw inspires for shoes
Lizards are some of the most versatile animals on the planet. Geckoes for example can climb straight up walls, even across glass ceilings upside down. Their feet have been studied to learn how to make better adhesives. Now, lizards are the subject of a new investigation which includes the dinosaurs. Researchers are looking at how lizards use their tails for balance, resulting in similar mechanical “tails” for robots.
Continue reading lizard tail for stabilizers
Snakes have scales on their belly skin which help them move about. On a flat surface, the body weight is continuously redistributed for maximum friction, and the scales provide grip. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have made detailed studies of the movement of the milk snake. The result, which they call terrestrial lateral undulation, reveals complex motion.
Continue reading the mystical movement of snakes
Here is an activity to try with a length of adhesive tape. Press the tape against a dusty surface several times. As expected, the tape quickly loses its holding strength as dust particles collect and coat the sticky side. In contrast, consider tree frogs which thrive in dusty, wet, or muddy surroundings. Yet they cling securely to branches and leaves, even hanging upside down. How are they able to hold on without falling?
Continue reading tree frog climb wet and dirty surfaces as well as upside down surfaces without falling