How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls | David L. Hu

Summary of: How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls: Animal Movement and the Robots of the Future
By: David L. Hu


Enter a fascinating world where animal movement and cutting-edge robotics intertwine in David L. Hu’s book ‘How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls: Animal Movement and the Robots of the Future’. Delve into groundbreaking research exploring how creatures like water striders, snakes, and various burrowers have inspired innovations within robotics and fluid dynamics. Uncover the secrets of efficient propulsion and elaborate maneuvers that have led to groundbreaking developments in robotics, from hexapod robots to snake-inspired medical devices. Prepare to be amazed by the ingenious survival mechanisms animals have evolved and the exciting possibilities they have and will continue to inspire.

Animal Movement

Movement in animals is primarily driven by the need for energy through accessing food. It also aids them in navigating different conditions and avoiding danger. The scientific study of animal movement advanced with applied mathematics and new imaging techniques. This book aims to introduce readers to the fascinating world of animal movement and the interdisciplinary studies involved, including imaging, computing, and robotics.

Learning from Animal Movement

The article explores the ways in which scientists have studied and replicated the movement patterns of various animals for use in robotics and terrain navigation. From water striders’ use of surface tension to move across water to the snake-inspired robots that have revolutionized surgery, researchers have looked to animal movements for inspiration. Worms’ ability to move through cracks in stiff mud, sandfish swimming through sand, and wingless flying snakes gliding through the air have all provided insights into how to design machines to maneuver through different terrains. The article highlights the importance of observing nature in order to develop innovative solutions for a variety of challenges.

Designing Efficient Machines

A Caltech team studied jellyfish to create an efficient submarine that propels like the sea creature. The researchers discovered that the jellyfish’s body shapes and sprinting methods led to varying levels of energy consumption. By identifying the optimal shape for efficient swimming, they incorporated it into the submarine. The team also studied walking to identify the principle behind efficient propulsion. They noted that each step stores kinetic energy, leading to walking losing minimal energy overall. However, repeated impacts still lead to energy costs. To build machines that can walk without motors, researchers created a leg that can “roll” like a wheel, eliminating energy loss from bobbing. By studying nature’s most efficient movements, humans can design better machines for the future.

The Purpose of Eyelashes

Did you know that children with allergies have longer eyelashes? Animal studies suggest that eyelashes serve as “windbreaks” for the eyes and protect them from irritants like mites. Additionally, eyelashes act as a physical screen that blocks particles from entering the eye. Interestingly, these low maintenance features are common in nature and can be found in other small objects protruding into a fluid flow. Scientists propose that utilizing a similar system could improve the efficiency of solar energy cells by preventing dust accumulation.

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