Whether it’s the fluid grace of a slithering snake, the tenacity of a multi-body ant bridge, or the intermittent flitting of a water strider across the surface of a pond, animal movements constantly fascinate us. Scientists have learned a great deal from observing animal locomotion, and more than one mechanical invention has borrowed from nature to inform a more robust design. To enlighten us about the remarkable process of adapting robotics to model animals, biologist and mechanical engineer David Hu joins us with observations from his book How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls. Hu shows how animals have evolved to traverse their environments and taken advantage of physical laws in ways that are startling and ingenious. In turn, he reveals how the latest discoveries about animal mechanics are inspiring scientists to invent robots and devices that move with similar elegance and efficiency. In a discussion that transports us from the rainforests of Panama to the robotics labs at MIT, Hu invites us to marvel at nature’s complex feats of mobility and learn the ways that scientists are applying them to the development of cutting-edge technology.
David L. Hu is associate professor of mechanical engineering and biology and adjunct professor of physics at Georgia Institute of Technology.
Presented by Town Hall Seattle and University Prep.