Agriculture
Springing forward
Watching out for vultures
Seeds of the Future
Amphibians
Bullfrogs
Poison Dart Frogs
Newts
Animals
Helping the Cause of Macaws
Ants on Stilts
A Butterfly's New Green Glow
Behavior
Memory by Hypnosis
Mosquito duets
Pondering the puzzling platypus
Birds
Flamingos
Swans
Cardinals
Chemistry and Materials
A Diamond Polish for Ancient Tools
Diamond Glow
A New Basketball Gets Slick
Computers
Supersonic Splash
The solar system's biggest junkyard
Small but WISE
Dinosaurs and Fossils
The bug that may have killed a dinosaur
Fossil Fly from Antarctica
Supersight for a Dino King
E Learning Jamaica
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
Earth
Surf Watch
Polar Ice Feels the Heat
Getting the dirt on carbon
Environment
Plant Gas
Shrimpy Invaders
Flu river
Finding the Past
The Puzzle of Ancient Mariners
Little People Cause Big Surprise
Fakes in the museum
Fish
Puffer Fish
Sturgeons
Pygmy Sharks
Food and Nutrition
Healing Honey
Packing Fat
A Pepper Part that Burns Fat
GSAT English Rules
Capitalization Rules
Who vs. Whom
Finding Subjects and Verbs
GSAT Exam Preparation Jamaica
Preparing for the GSAT Exam
Ministry of Education Announces 82 GSAT Scholarships for 2010
GSAT Scholarship
GSAT Exams Jamaica Scholarships
GSAT Practice Papers | GSAT Mathematics | Maths
GSAT stars reap scholarship glory
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
GSAT Mathematics
Play for Science
GSAT Mathematics Quiz, Teaching Math, teaching anxiety
Deep-space dancers
Human Body
A Better Flu Shot
Disease Detectives
Speedy Gene Gives Runners a Boost
Invertebrates
Centipedes
Octopuses
Walking Sticks
Mammals
Bats
Rats
Siberian Husky
Parents
The Surprising Meaning and Benefits of Nursery Rhymes
Expert report highlights the importance to parents of reading to children!
What Not to Say to Emerging Readers
Physics
Gaining a Swift Lift
Project Music
Spin, Splat, and Scramble
Plants
Flower family knows its roots
Seeds of the Future
Tracking the Sun Improves Plant Pollen
Reptiles
Box Turtles
Reptiles
Crocodiles
Space and Astronomy
Sounds of Titan
Ringing Saturn
Mercury's magnetic twisters
Technology and Engineering
Supersuits for Superheroes
Are Propellers Fin-ished?
Sugar Power for Cell Phones
The Parts of Speech
Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Adjectives and Adverbs
Pronouns
Transportation
Flying the Hyper Skies
Reach for the Sky
Revving Up Green Machines
Weather
Catching Some Rays
A Change in Climate
Earth's Poles in Peril
Add your Article

Slip Sliming Away

Slugs and snails produce slime that looks a lot like the stuff that comes out of your nose. These creatures don't use tissues to wipe up their snot, though. Instead, they use the goo to help them stick to surfaces and crawl over obstacles. For years, scientists have been studying slug slime to better understand what it's made of and how it works. Recently, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge created a robotic slug that crawls on slime, just like real slugs do. The research has attracted the attention of oil companies and other industries. Robotic snails and slugs, some engineers think, could be helpful tools for underground exploration. "When I first started doing this work, I thought, 'Who in the world is going to want a robotic snail?'" says Annette "Peko" Hosoi, a mechanical engineer at MIT. "It turns out this kind of locomotion is very versatile," she says. These creatures "can climb over any terrainóbark, sand, glass, walls, anything." Slugs and snails (no puppy dog tails) Though snails have shells and slugs don't, the two groups of animals are closely related and have a lot in common. Both are really good at sticking to slippery surfaces, such as wet leaves or rocks that get pounded by waves. And both have come up with an identical solution to a difficult problem: how to get around on only one foot. If you looked closely at a slug or snail stuck to a glass aquarium wall, you'd see dark bands moving along its body. These bands are created by wavelike contractions of muscles in the animal's single foot, and those rippling waves allow the creature to crawl. Decades ago, scientists realized that, along with this rippling motion, slugs and snails secrete slime as they move. Together, those two strategies allow the animals to get around, says Mark Denny, a biomechanic at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, Calif. Time to study slime In the 1970s, Denny started studying the slime of banana slugs, a type of slug that can be bright yellow (which explains its name). These creatures, it turns out, produce loads of the slippery goo. Banana slug slime is "the snottiest stuff around," Denny says. Denny's early research showed that slug slime is similar to the mucus that lines our lungs and comes out of our noses when we're sick. Through their feet, the animals secrete proteins and sugar molecules that mix with water and give slime its unique properties. Slime is 96 percent water. That's why you'll often see slugs and snails when it's damp or rainy outside. They use water from the environment to make slime, which acts as a slippery highway on which they cruise. Like mayonnaise, slug slime can form solid glops that hold their shape. When a slug isn't moving, it anchors itself to surfaces by the solid form of its slime. But when slime is walked on by a crawling creature, it becomes liquidlike and slippery. Jell-O has similar properties. Slug slime, however, can do something that Jell-O and mayonnaise can't. After being smeared from a solid to a liquid, it can rearrange its molecules and re-form into a solid, once the slug stops moving on it. That property allows the animal to move and to stick to surfaces at the same time. Here's how it works. When the animal wants to go somewhere, it starts sliding the back end of its foot. The sliding motion makes the slime underneath that section slippery, and that section can then move forward. When the rear end of the foot stops moving, the slime underneath it turns solid, making it stick. At the same time, a section of foot just in front of the rear section starts to move, creating slippery slime, which pushes that part of the animal forward. In this wavelike way, the slug creeps forward, with just one part of its foot moving at a time. Slowly but surely, the animal gets where it's going, even when it's upside-downóthanks to slime. Roboslug to the rescue Engineers at MIT realized that moving like a slug could be useful in a variety of situations. So, they decided to see if they could build something sluglike that could stick to and move on all sorts of surfaces. To better understand the creatures' locomotion, Hosoi and her colleagues first videotaped slugs and snails as they crawled. After carefully analyzing the tapes, the scientists were able to build a robot that moved on artificial slime like a slug moves on real slime. The researchers used a human-made material called Laponite to mimic slime for the robot. Laponite, which is made of clay particles suspended in water, can switch between solid and liquid, just like slug slime does. Unlike a real slug, which has just one foot, the robotic slug above has six footpads. When placed on a Laponite-coated surface, the robot moves one footpad at a time, starting with the rear foot and moving forward. The footpad that is moving slips along liquefied slime. The others remain stuck to solidified slime. Like real slugs, the robotic slug can climb up walls and across ceilings. The robot's motion is not as smooth as that of a real slug, but the overall pattern is the same. Robotic slugs might some day help hunt for oil buried in the earth, crawling up and down muddy holes without slipping, Hosoi says. Eventually, doctors might send tiny robotic slugs into the human body for medical research and treatment. Slime researchers hope their work will inspire more respect for a substance that isn't often appreciated. "People have an aversion to slime," Denny says. "But when you think about it, it's everywhere, and it does a lot of wonderful things. It's pretty amazing stuff."

Slip Sliming Away
Slip Sliming Away








Designed and Powered by HBJamaica.com™