Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rescue Roaches

I don't think there are many things on earth more disgusting than cockroaches*, but it turns out that they have their uses, more or less.

I call your attention to this fascinating article from the Washington Post: How One of Nature’s Grossest Creatures Could Help Save Someone’s Life. It seems that researchers looking for ways to rescue people trapped in collapsed buildings or mine cave-ins have taken an interest in the ability of the lowly cockroach to squeeze through the smallest of spaces and survive many pounds of crushing pressure, and are trying to apply the science of cockroach armor and survival to the development of search-and-rescue robots that can find people trapped in otherwise impenetrable piles of rubble.

Scientists who have studied the cockroach note that it combines a soft body with overlapping plates of flexible armor that allow it to compress itself to a mere quarter of its normal height. And it's fast - according to a researcher quoted in the article, an American cockroach can travel the equivalent of 50 lengths of its own body in a second, which would be the equivalent of you or I running more than 140 mph. Even when the roach compresses itself to squeeze through a miniscule opening, it can still cover 20 body lengths per second, which is pretty good for a disgusting insect that isn't running for office. And on top of that, a roach standing still can survive the application of up to 900 times its body weight before it reaches its crush point ... a useful ability for something you might want to send into tiny, dangerously unstable places.

So you can see that the combination of speed, agility, compressibility, and armored strength makes the much-maligned cockroach a useful model for search robots. The researchers have already developed a prototype they call the CRAM - "Compressible Robot with Articulated Mechanisms" - but note that while it mimics the desirable features of the roach**, it still needs to be miniaturized and equipped with the various sensors and control devices that will allow it to function as a useful search-and-rescue device.

Someday, Dear Readers, you may owe your life to a robot inspired by a cockroach. But while you may find that idea revolting, consider what might have been inspired by Ted Cruz or Donald Trump.


Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for the naming of our Left-Cheek Ass Clown for February. More thoughts then.


* Well, except for politicians, Internet trolls, and religious bigots that - unfortunately - we can't stomp on or spray to eradicate.

** You should pardon the expression.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

Roaches are gross! I didn't know they had that remarkable ability!

Why can't the GOP call Cook's or Orkin!

Mike said...

Somebody out there is trying to train roaches right now. Quick, apply for the patent first!

The Bastard King of England said...

Training cockroaches would be a conversation stopper for anyone who would have that for an occupation.

allenwoodhaven said...

Very interesting! Everything has its positive qualities. If one can't be found it means one hasn't looked hard enough or that it's use is serving as a bad example.