Saturday, November 05, 2005

New propulsion form for tiny creatures

Science News reports that some MIT mathematicians videotaped tiny water-walking insects using surface tension to draw themselves toward the edges of water surfaces without moving their legs.

For the same reason that cereal clumps together in a bowl full of milk, or bubbles gather at the edges of a drink, surface tension pulls together deformations on the surface of any liquid. The insects stop walking when they near an edge (where the sloping meniscus can create a hill they'd be unable to climb) and instead take a posture that deforms the surface, drawing them toward the nearest edge. The article concludes by saying

The new results and related research may have important applications not only for understanding biolocomotion but also potentially in nanotechnology.
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