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This roach-inspired robot can wiggle through tight spaces

SQUISH  A new, collapsible robot can squeeze into tight spaces like its living inspiration, the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana.

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A new crevice-crawling robot takes after compressible cockroaches.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley designed a palm-sized robot inspired by the American cockroach, Periplaneta americana. Thanks to the roach’s sturdy, segmented shell, a roughly 12 millimeter-tall roach can cruise through spaces only four millimeters high and withstand crushing forces around 900 times its own body weight.

The robot version is a “compressible robot with articulated mechanisms,” or CRAM, that has a many-plated, collapsible plastic shell and a flexible spine. This mock exoskeleton allows the bot to shrink from 7.5 centimeters to 3.5 centimeters tall in confined areas.  The robot’s six legs also mimic roach leg positions while scuttling through spacious or cramped quarters.

Future versions of the robot could someday be used in search-and-rescue, navigating through rubble left by earthquakes or explosions in search of survivors, the researchers suggest February 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  

A compressible plastic shell helps a cockroach-inspired robot shrink to half its original height in close quarters. K. Jayaram and R.J. Full/PNAS 2016

Science & Society,, Genetics,, Cells

‘Three-parent babies’ are ethically permissible, U.S. panel says

By Tina Hesman Saey 12:07pm, February 3, 2016
A panel of experts concludes that clinical experiments that create “three-parent babies” are ethical, with limits.
Genetics,, Animals

Bedbug genome spills secrets of violence, weird sex

By Helen Thompson 1:30pm, February 2, 2016
Maps of bedbugs’ genetic material reveal clues to their success.

DNA may determine if you’re an early bird or night owl

By Sarah Schwartz 11:36am, February 2, 2016
Morning people are more likely to have certain variations in their DNA, but less likely to have insomnia or sleep apnea.
Genetics,, Science & Society

U.K. first to approve gene editing of human embryos for research

By Tina Hesman Saey 6:53pm, February 1, 2016
The United Kingdom is the first government to approve gene editing in human embryos for research purposes.
Health,, Human Development

WHO declares international emergency for cases linked to Zika virus

By Meghan Rosen 5:05pm, February 1, 2016
The recent spate of birth defects and neurological disorders linked to Zika virus infection constitutes an international public health emergency, the World Health Organization declared February 1.
Animals,, Fungi,, Conservation

Behavior, body size impact bats’ fight against white-nose syndrome

By Chris Samoray 2:31pm, January 29, 2016
Behavioral and physical traits buffer some bats against white-nose syndrome while leaving others vulnerable.

Skin color changes reveal octopus drama

By Helen Thompson 11:25am, January 29, 2016
Shallow-water octopuses use changes in skin color to communicate aggression to their peers, study suggests.
Technology,, Robotics

Machine trumps man in strategy game Go

By Meghan Rosen 1:00pm, January 27, 2016
For the first time, a computer has beat a professional human player in the strategy game Go.
Health,, Human Development,, Neuroscience

Monkeys with human gene show signs of autism

By Laura Sanders 11:00am, January 25, 2016
Genetically altered monkeys may help scientists understand autism.
Animals,, Physiology

Tegu lizards warm up for mating season

By Helen Thompson 2:00pm, January 22, 2016
The heat is on in tegu lizards during mating season, study suggests.
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