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Let's send The Fossil Huntress to Antarctica!

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Stephanie PulfordRSS Feed of this column.

As engineering grad student at UCDavis, I am interested in the common ground between biology and machinery. Incidentally, my column's title refers to the way bacteria navigate-- first they "run"... Read More »

Cicadas might have used their wily prime number scheme to dodge 2 and 4 year predators, but what about a predator with continual exponential growth? 

The microcircuitry industry has reliably doubled the density of transistors on a chip every 2 years, as observed by Gordon E. Moore in 1965. This exponential density growth trend is known as Moore’s law, and satisfying it requires that nanofabrication techniques are constantly embraced, devoured, then cast aside. 
Cicadas are nature’s candy—fat meaty bugs straight out of a Temple of Doom buffet.  Though most cicadas worldwide live typical insect lives, the Magicicada genus in the eastern US has a special power move to counterbalance its deliciousness: periodicity. 
First published in Dutch in 1976, Gnomes by Wil Huygens and Rien Poortlivet remains the definitive tome on these reticent woodland denizens.  A classic of fiction science, this lavishly detailed field notebook of the physiology, habits, and habitat of gnomes as observed over 20 years of firsthand observation.  The physician-illustrator team wastes no time in addressing questions of physiological scale:
Mechanically, walking is a complicated feat.  We take for granted that a carefree cascade of one-footed falls adds up to steady rapid locomotion.

Replicating a dynamically stable foot-over-foot walk has become a holy grail for roboticists—remember the hype about ASIMO? Researchers at Penn State are taking a shortcut to nanoscale bipedal drones thanks to to motor proteins, the walking caravan molecules within our cells.
“Let’s say tomorrow some crazy guy bombs America or poisons all your river or puts a lot of nuclear radiation out and all your livestock is poisoned.  What you will eat?”

“Vegetables!” I answered.
The Antarctic landmass is losing its frontier status.  Housing thousands of decreasingly rugged inhabitants in heated, internet-ready comfort, it’s been so well-mapped that we even know where to find the donuts.  Underwater, however, is a different story.  Harsh temperatures, currents, pressure and ice surfaces have kept the submerged landscapes of glaciers inaccessible to all but penguins and Morgan Freeman’s voiceover.

A joint US-British team has nominated a new Ernest Shackleford to explore the uncharted Antarctic underwater.  But this time around, he’s a robot.