Thursday, March 10, 2016

Creepy-Crawly Biophysics

Mojave Shovel-Nosed Snake: shovels through the sand

We do molecular biophysics. But although biological molecules are incredibly interesting and useful to understand, physicists can also look at larger things - cells, organs, and how whole organisms move.

So check this out. It's Dan Goldman's  "CRAB" lab (Complex Rheology And Biomechanics) at Georgia Tech. They study lizards (cute), crabs (ouch), cockroaches (yuck) and snakes (lovely) and ask how they move on tricky stuff like sand, bark, leaves and grass.

Now I thought that the basic principles of snake locomotion had been worked out a long time ago, by, among others, the great Nicolas Rashevsky, but, apparently there's more to learn, especially when one takes into accounts physics of the terrestrial substrates as well. Recently Goldman's lab figured out how sidewinders manage to get up steep sand slopes.

Cute stuff - creepy-crawly biophysics.

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