Rattlesnakes tutor robot on dune climbing | Science News

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Rattlesnakes tutor robot on dune climbing

Sidewinder snakes show roboticists a trick for climbing treacherous sand

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2:53pm, October 9, 2014
sidewinder rattlesnake

SNAKES ON PLANES  A sidewinder rattlesnake’s unusual skill in climbing sandy slopes inspired tweaks to long, skinny robots.

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Sidewinder rattlesnakes wriggling up sand dunes turn out to have a trick of adjusting their curvy moves that’s improving robot design and the understanding of legless motion on sand.

In lab tests on sandy inclines, Crotalus cerastes snakes easily outslithered 13 other kinds of pit vipers and a robotic snake, says physicist Daniel Goldman of the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. 

As a sidewinder slithers upward on increasingly steep slopes, it doesn’t press deeper and deeper as might be expected. Instead, sidewinders minimize their risk of slipping by increasing the proportion of their body in contact with the sandy surface on any particular wriggle, Goldman and his colleagues sayin the Oct. 10 Science. Increasing body contact might  take less energy than gouging deeper into the sand, Goldman says.

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