Christian Long

Robert Full: Learning from the Gecko’s Tail

In TED Talks on April 19, 2010 at 10:46 pm

Reflection by ERIN M.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc

Robert Full:  Learning from the Gecko’s Tail

Robert Full, a biologist, gave an interesting speech about geckos. Have you ever wondered how geckos walk up walls without falling? Well in his TED talk, Full gives us all the answers.

Geckos are interesting creatures and were designed uniquely to be able to climb up trees and plants quickly without slipping off. They are able to climb up a wall so quickly because of the tiny hairs on their toes. These hairs stick to the surface by intermolecular forces. Does this give you an idea of how small they are? Full and engineers were able to use the same principles to simulate a large version of the geckos toes to test it, and remarkably it worked. However, one problem they came across when testing it on large robot geckos was how they removed their toes from surfaces. Full explains in his talk that geckos are able to peel their toes from the surface at high rates as they run up the wall. With this knowledge they were able to design a large robot gecko that could climb up a wall.

One interesting thing about this design was the tail. The tail was not added in order for the robot to look like a gecko. While making the gecko engineers discovered that without the tail the gecko would not be able to balance itself as it walked. Not only does the tail act as a balance when the geckos walk, but it also helps the land on their feet when they fall.

Full discusses the ways that other disciplines help biology advance. As one discovery is made it can be shared and further advanced to be made useful. Full did a wonderful job of presenting his ideas of “Biomutualism”, which is the association of biology and another discipline. In this presentation, Full talks about interesting characteristics of geckos and how biology and engineers collaborated to make the discoveries. By watching this video I was able to learn something new. There are many things in our world that have yet to be discovered. Learning new things about our world can be exciting. People like Robert Full make these discoveries possible for us to know.


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