Robot Snake Reveals Secrets of Sidewinders' Distinctive Slither

October 9, 2014 6:28 PM

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Robot Snake Reveals Secrets of Sidewinders' Distinctive Slither

The sinuous movement pattern of a desert snake sidewinding its way up a sandy slope is fascinating to watch, but it also presents a physical conundrum. How is it that certain snakes can ascend a dune so easily, while others writhe helplessly and mammals lumber ponderously as their feet sink into the granular surface? Researchers have determined the subtle yet effective technique employed in sidewinding by observing it in action — and imitating it with a snake-like, segmented robot.

"Our initial idea was to use the robot as a physical model to learn what the snakes experienced," explained the Georgia Institute of Technology's Daniel Goldman, one of the study's authors, in a news release. "By studying the animal and the physical model simultaneously, we learned important general...

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