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April 3, 2024 80 mins

We talk about wild human inventions inspired by animal designs!

Guest: Ellen Weatherford


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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:06):
Welcome to Creature feature production of iHeartRadio. I'm your host
of Many Parasites, Katie Golden. I studied psychology and evolutionary biology,
and today on this show, we are talking about biomimicry.
It is when humans plagiarized from animals. We are not
given any royalties to these creatures, and yet we use
them as inspiration for our inventions. We're talking about shark

skin suits in a non hannibal elector way, butterfly money.
We're talking about gecko tape. And I have a guest
who is bringing up some mystery animals even to me,
So discover this more as we answer the age old
question have you ever rubbed a shark? Joining me today

is host of the Maximum Fun Network podcast Just the
Zoo of Us. Ellen Weatherford, Welcome woo.

Speaker 2 (01:04):
Nobody listening can see me dancing. I'm dancing.

Speaker 1 (01:07):
Feel the energy.

Speaker 2 (01:10):
Just imagine in your head that I'm dancing and it's
like really good, like I'm doing a really really like.

Speaker 1 (01:15):
The subtle vibrations of the air waves into the microphone
as you dance does give an energy to the audio,
a dance energy. Ellen, have you ever have you ever
rubbed a shark.

Speaker 2 (01:29):
I have rubbed a shark. It's kind of fun. How
you ask, because I just told this story like on
like two weeks ago, maybe on our podcast. So my
husband and I when we were just friends. This was
prior to our relationship with a bunch of other friends. Yeah,
I got shark. Sond We were out with a bunch

of friends on the beach in the middle of the night.
We were flying kites at like I don't know, eleven pm.
It's pitch black dark. I've got my dog out on
this beach. And she runs up and finds a dead
bonnet head shark on the beach. Yeah. This is in Florida,
by the way, I should have said. And Christian, who
is now my husband, picks it up and he's like,

you know, checking it out. He's he's looking at he's
interested in sharks and stuff. Sure, And I was like,
pleas me but I yeah, He's like, I'll mess with
it a little bit. And I have historically been absolutely
terrified of anything that lives in the water. I don't
want to touch it. If it's in the water, I
don't want to touch it. And so Christian asks me,
because he knows I'm I'm also just a perilously curious person.

And he says, do you know what a shark feels like?
And I was like, no, I don't. Uh what does
it feel like? He goes, I'm not gonna tell you.
I was like why not? And he's like, because I
think you should get over your fear and touch it.
It's dead, it can't do anything to you. So if
you want to find out what it feels like, you
got to touch it. And he knew that my curiosity

was going to get the better of me. And I did,
in fact touch the shark and I.

Speaker 1 (03:02):
Rubbed it how to feel.

Speaker 2 (03:04):
I don't know if you want me to spoil what
the texture is.

Speaker 1 (03:07):
I've rubbed a shark before, I've rubbed rays, I've rubbed sharks,
I've rubbed a lot of things. Your fear about touching
things in the ocean is actually pretty reasonable, because there
are some things that if you touch, you could die.

Speaker 2 (03:25):
Most things will mess you up.

Speaker 1 (03:26):
A lot of things in the ocean will mess you up.
Like if you see a little yellow octopus with its
adorable and it's got bright blue rings, and you know,
don't touch that one. It'll kill you with a touch
A toxin, So your instinct is correct. But usually a shark,
especially dead one, is not going to hurt you if

you rub it. So, what did it feel like, Ellen,
when you were rubbing that dead shark.

Speaker 2 (03:55):
So if you were to pet it as one would
a dog, when you pet it from like head to
tail in that direction, feels kind of like what you
would expect it to, like a sort of smooth feeling
from head to tail. But if you were to go
in the opposite direction, it is really really rough and
sand papery and like a like a really coarse grit

sand paper, like you could you could actually get a
rash from like rubbing it in the opposite direction.

Speaker 1 (04:21):
In fact, researchers do sometimes get rashes, like when they
handle sharks gitting too much.

Speaker 2 (04:28):
It seems like the least cool injury you could get
when working with sharks.

Speaker 1 (04:33):
It sounds like it sounds like you could be easily
misunderstood if you're like, I got a rash from rubbing
this shark. But yeah, it's it's not. It's not ideal
thing to rub in the wrong direction. It's actually kind
of reminds me a bit of cat tongues, you know,
like that, Yeah, like they're kind of smooth in one direction,

but they're super sand papery and rough in the other direction.
And have you ever liked.

Speaker 2 (05:01):
Yeah, and they don't look that way, like when you
just look at them, you can't. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (05:06):
When you look at a distance, you're like, that's just
a little tongue that should feel gross and wet, but
it's like actually really rough. And when you look at
it more closely, you see all these like kind of
tiny like hooks, like it looks a little bit like velcrow.
And that's what causes that sort of coarse texture with sharks.
The thing that's causing that coarse texture is denticles, which

I love the word. It is just such a fun word,
and dentical.

Speaker 2 (05:32):
You cannot stress enough the d at the beginning delta.
We're not talking about tentacles. They're not covered in tiny
little tentacles that would be Lovecraftian.

Speaker 1 (05:41):
I can only assume that denticles comes from the same
I'm gonna say Latin root as dentin or dental meaning tooth,
because it is these are tooth like projections, and when
you look at a shark skin close up, it kind
of looks like tiny our teeth all lined up kind
of like dragon scales, I want to say, And so

it makes sense then, right, like imagine you're petting a dragon,
as I do all the time, and you're petting it
in one way where the scales are sort of like
the direction the scales are facing, then it will be smooth.
But if you pet against it, it's gonna be really
rough in sand paper. And so that's why that shark
feels like you could sort of you know, finish a

wood project, a table that you've been working on.

Speaker 2 (06:34):
This is my shark lathed.

Speaker 1 (06:36):
Yeah you like you like this banister? I I evened
it out with shark, so uh yeah. So they have
these these these denticles and they are really interesting because
they offer these shark a few cool perks. One is
obviously kind of some armor, right, Like it makes their

skin a little harder, a little tougher, And you'd think
that maybe this is for like shark on shark sort
of attacks, but like it, which is true. It can
make them a little more tough endurable like against other
sharks or whales or large you know fish. But it
has a lot of use actually for the small things,
so like barnacles, parasites, bacteria, even algae. It the surface

makes it harder for them to adhere to, to stick to,
and so there it's kind of like you know, like
if you have a section cup and you put it
on like glass, like that's stuck on there forever and
it's really hard to get it off. But if you
put it on like a wall that's kind of bumpy,
you stick it on there, it doesn't have as much
like suction. It's harder to like stick on there. Even

though like bartacles don't necessarily use like section to stick
on things. It's like a similar concept board. It's like
their their adherence to the shark is made more difficult
by the fact that it has this y, like sharp
bumpy texture.

Speaker 2 (08:00):
Like disrupts the sort of adherence to exactly. It's it's
funny that you say suction because the like, just two
weeks ago, I was talking to a researcher named Amani
Weber Schultz who studies were moras and they do suction
right on to like the underside or the side of
a shark. And a lot of the things we talked

about was that she actually studies denticals on different types
of sharks and was telling me about how not only
do like different species of sharks have different shapes of
the denticals, just like how different sharks have different teeth, right,
Like you can you can identify, like what shark a
tooth came from by the shape of it. And it

goes for the denticals too, that if you really zoom in,
you could look and like the denticals will have different shapes.
But then they'd have different shaped denticals on different parts
of their body, like the ones that the nose would
be different than the ones at the tail. She was
telling me about that, my mind was blown, Like she was.
She had some really amazing research that they did on
shark scales, because it is so much more complicated than

you might think. When you just look at a shark,
like you can't even really tell they have those.

Speaker 1 (09:08):
Now they're tiny. You really can only see them under
a microscope and you can feel them with your hand
because of the roughness. But yeah, that's interesting. I mean,
like remoras are not necessarily bad for sharks. It's a
debate whether there it's a mutualistic versus like a commensal relationship,

meaning like the remora might benefit more from the shark
than the shark benefits from the remorra, but the remorra
is not hurting the shark. So like the I think
it's interesting. So like, I think the reason the remort
can kind of stick to the shark one thing is
that the remort is probably picking a part of the
shark that's a little smoother. Also, but also the remorra

is larger than say a barnacle, so it's like the
larger it is like if you stick a plunger to
a wall, you might get some suction where it's like
a smaller section cup, you might not get it. I
mean again, I'm not saying that the small animals use
like section necessarily. It's just like the that surface becomes
as you zoom out, it becomes smoother, and then as
you zoom in, like when you're smaller and smaller, that's

even bumpier for you as a tiny animal trying to
like stick on to the shark.

Speaker 2 (10:19):
It's funny how like physics works differently when you're just tiny.

Speaker 1 (10:23):

Speaker 2 (10:24):
No, we're going to talk different physics.

Speaker 1 (10:25):
We're going to talk about that some more. I mean,
I'm I'm not like a doctor of physics or of anything.
Despite what you might think in terms of my you know,
garage clinic, but no, I don't have any like I
don't have a great understanding of physics, but yeah, it is.

It is crazy. So the these denticles, in addition to
providing a hostile environment for like bacteria, algae, barnacles, also
reduce drag underwater, so it breaks up the res distance
from the water and allows them to basically cut more
through the water. So like you know, just like with air,

will create drag, if you're a shark under the water,
you're also gonna encounter some drag, like the resistance of
the water against your shape and your body that slows
you down. And so by reducing drag, they also so
they make themselves more energy efficient, they make themselves faster

and quieter. All of this is very important for an
apex predator like a shark that wants to be well,
not always apex depends on the size of the shark,
but a shark that wants to be quiet, it's an
ambush predator generally speaking. And it also is it benefits
the shark to get to an animal quick more quickly

than say other sharks or other predators. So all these
things really benefit the shark, it also benefits Olympic swimmers,
or at least used to.

Speaker 2 (12:00):

Speaker 1 (12:01):
The most obvious use of shark skin in terms of
human innovation is like a swimsuit to make us swim
good and speedo, which is apparently not just a type
of swimsuit. It's like a company made a swimsuit out
of basically like manufactured fake shark skin. It's not made

out of actual shark called fast skin that uses microscopic
structures that are similar to denticles to reduce drag, and
it was used by Olympic swimmers and it was so
good that, like in two thousand and eight, the Olympic
Committee was like, Okay, stop, you can't use this anymore.

Guys are going too fast, You're breaking too many records
and we don't like it, which seems weird to me
because it seems fun that we're getting people to be
faster and faster. I don't know, I'm not like an
Olympics uh expert. I don't really know what the term
for Olympics fans.

Speaker 2 (13:01):
Is an Olympian Olympia.

Speaker 1 (13:05):
I don't think that's is that like, is that someone
who's into the Olympics or someone who competes in the Olympics.

Speaker 2 (13:11):
I think it's actually someone who lives in Olympia, Washington.

Speaker 1 (13:14):
Olympus heads, Olympics heads.

Speaker 2 (13:18):
Yeah, so it's I feel like if I was in
that position where we're like, oh, we got to do
something about these guys swimming too fast with it. Instead,
just make the fast skin mandatory for everybody, right level
the playing playing field, but faster, everybody going as fast
as they can.

Speaker 1 (13:35):
I think a good compromise is like, you can use
the fast skin, but you also have to dress like
a little shark, so you need at dorsh need a
little shark outfit.

Speaker 2 (13:48):
Like when I was a kid, they sold these like
goggle like goggles that had the shark fin on and
also these like flippery sort of maybe this was Shark
Boy and Lave a Girl tie in merch, but they
definitely and March for that movie almost certainly.

Speaker 1 (14:09):
That's a deep cut. But no. Yeah, if okay, look
compromise Merman and women mer people.

Speaker 2 (14:17):
Put everyone in a murrhperson tail.

Speaker 1 (14:20):
Everyone everyone gottaware Mermaid outfit shark, but the shark kind
the murman, Mrman and Mermaid. Sorry, I feel like we
should have more inclusive like merh murpholk murfolk. That's it murfolks,
and they have to be shark based murphfolk.

Speaker 2 (14:38):
Yeah, I think there's what everybody do it make it
mandatory for everybody, then it's equal merfolcification.

Speaker 1 (14:48):
So in addition to turning Olympians into murph folk, there
are other applications for man made dentacles. You can use
it to, like in paint to make the holes of
ships more resistant to barnacle attachment, and in medical settings
actually to prevent bacteria from growing on surface they're like
working on sort of they like basically surfaces in a

hospital make them more resistant to bacteria. One way to
do that would be to make the service disruptive to
the growth of bacteria by doing something similar to shirkskin
with like little projections. And then also to improve aerodynamics,
right like when turbines airplanes, it's a constant like air,
obviously different than water, but similar concept supply in terms

of breaking up wind reserves wind resistance, So like some
things that work in terms of hydrodynamics might also work
in aerodynamics. And that is all I know about the
physics of this situation and nothing more.

Speaker 2 (15:54):
We maybe at a disadvantage here because I also, uh,
not only do I not know anything about physics, tried
to learn about physics. I took a physics class in
college and I immediately failed, like within two weeks. They
were like I was like, they were, I don't know
how you have an f already, because I want.

Speaker 1 (16:12):
I once answered a question so bad on a physics
test in high school. My teacher was like, wait, this
was you, and I said yes, and he was like,
this made me so upset, and he was like heartbroken
that I would answer it so bad. He was like,
this made me really sad. And I'm like, wow, I've
broken my teacher. I answered a question so bad.

Speaker 2 (16:35):
I'm a biology person, leave me alone.

Speaker 1 (16:37):
Yeah. I don't even know what I was at that point.
I was a World of Warcraft person who wasn't studying. No,
I was very studious. I just sometimes would get very
much in my own head, like during a test, like
overthinking it to the point of writing a small paragraph
that made no sense. Anyways, I traumatized my physics teachers
the point, so you have some you have some human

innovations of your own that you wanted to draw attention to.

Speaker 2 (17:07):
I do and Luckily, my first one ties in so
perfectly to the one that you were just fantastic because
you were talking about, you know, using animal adaptations for
increased fluid dynamics, right like better in the case of
shark skin, this is hydrodynamic, mineus aerodynamic.

Speaker 1 (17:26):

Speaker 2 (17:28):
So to kind of set the scene a little bit,
it's Japan, it's the nineteen nineties.

Speaker 1 (17:34):
I'm already sold.

Speaker 2 (17:36):
Yeah, Evangelian is huge, city pop playing in the background.

Speaker 1 (17:40):
I have a very limited understanding of Japanese culture in
the nineties outside of anime.

Speaker 2 (17:45):
That's all I got. I'm so sorry, Like.

Speaker 1 (17:49):
I am a rube, I'm not city pop is playing.

Speaker 2 (17:53):
It's a vibe. Now. The original Shinkansen bullet tree had
a problem. They were way, way, way too loud. So
these bullet trains had this kind of like blunt, rounded nose,
and when the bullet train would go through a tunnel,

which these tunnels were often like around neighborhoods and offices
and places where people are going to be. So when
this train with the rounded nose would go through a tunnel,
they would make a booming sound every single time. It
would be like a sonic boom that would like wake people.

Speaker 1 (18:32):
Up at night. That sounds bad. I love train it's
not ideal. Yeah, that would make me turn against trains.

Speaker 2 (18:38):
Like I have lived with a train with train tracks
literally in our backyard, Like yeah, we have that train
would go by.

Speaker 1 (18:45):
We have a tram that runs like right outside, and
it's fine because it's.

Speaker 2 (18:49):
Oh, we had a slight train like great trains going
through a backyard, where like when the trains would go by,
our dishes would shake in the cabinets and you kind
of get used to it after a while. But this
was like this was a legitimate, like sonic boom that
was happening every single time of training.

Speaker 1 (19:06):
It's like that's a form of torture to like wake
people up with loud noises.

Speaker 2 (19:10):
Maybe it was intentional. I don't know. Maybe there was
some sort of CIA. I don't know.

Speaker 1 (19:15):
Thomas the tank engine gone CIA.

Speaker 2 (19:18):
He's an agent of the state. So this engineer named
ag Nakatsu had to figure out how to make them
quieter because this was a menace. Ag Nakatsu was also
a bird watcher. He spent a lot of time out.

Speaker 1 (19:35):
Watching watch birds. Am I right? What?

Speaker 2 (19:38):
Oh my god? I could never would be so embarrassing
I'd never do that my binoculars in the background.

Speaker 1 (19:45):
I'd never get excited about gray tits.

Speaker 2 (19:48):
I've never done that. I've never taken pictures from five
hundred feet away of a grebe that I wanted to
identify later. So being a birdwatcher, he knew about kingfish, which,
if you're not totally familiar with what a kingfisher is,
it's kind of a stout shaped bird with a really
really long, really really pointy beak. A kuka burra is

a type of kingfisher. So he was familiar with kingfishers
with this really long, really pointy beak. Now, the important
thing is that kingfishers often dive into the water because
they eat fish. And when they dive into water, they
do it at really really high speeds, but they don't splash,
like they just kind of seamlessly like dive into the

water totally like.

Speaker 1 (20:36):
Yeah, it is beautiful, it is gorgeous.

Speaker 2 (20:40):
Yeah, like these these guys are they have the game cornered.
It is beautiful. So the reason they're able to do
this is because their long, pointy, tapered beaks are pushing
the water to the side rather than in front, so
it's making the water go around their head and behind them,
rather than like bunching all of it up in the
front and making it splash to the sides. So Nakatsu

and his team gathered a bunch of data on Kingfisher beaks, right,
they did like you know, high speed videos and observations,
and they measured the curvature of the beak and the
length and the proportions and everything like that. Used all
of that, use what they learned from Kingfisher beaks and
tested out simulations of different shapes of trains and settled

on this long tapered It wasn't completely pointy in the front,
but it was much less rounded than it had been originally.
And so in nineteen ninety seven, the West Japan Railway
Company introduces the five hundred series, which has a long
pointed nose that mimics the beak of a Kingfisher. And
not only were the tunnel booms eliminated, so problem solved,

mission accomplished. We did it, boys, uh. But the trains
were also so aerodynamic that they ran faster and consumed
less electricity, so they worked better they did before, and
they were cheaper to run, so all around, total win.

Speaker 1 (22:05):
I'm looking at these trains and they're pointy. I like it.

Speaker 2 (22:09):
It's a pretty train.

Speaker 1 (22:12):
One. This is beautiful. I love these trains. It's so cool.

Speaker 2 (22:17):
Girly pop train girl.

Speaker 1 (22:18):
It's like she is man, she is ready, she is
slaying sleigh train. That's fantastic.

Speaker 2 (22:26):
This maybe a kawai train.

Speaker 1 (22:31):
I certainly, yes, it's a Oh there's a Hello kitty train.
Oh my god, man, that's very cool that. This is
so cool though, because I love it when it's like
there's an animal that looks because you look at a
kingfisher and it's they're adorable. Number one.

Speaker 2 (22:51):
They're also think of gorgeous.

Speaker 1 (22:53):
They are beautiful, right, especially like there's different kinds of species,
Like you mentioned, some are more color than others, but
there's ones that are like bright blue and orange, and
like even their beaks are quite pretty. They can be
sort of purply orange and they but the funny thing
about them is like they have proportional with their body.

Their beak is huge and their head.

Speaker 2 (23:16):
And their head is so big.

Speaker 1 (23:17):
It's big, so they look like kind of like a bobblehead.
And their tail is really short and stumpy, and so
they're not really built to be great flyers, like they're
fine at flying, but it's really the the diving is
where they shine because otherwise they kind of they have
a funny looking little body with a little stumptail. And

so it is interesting because it's like we look at
things like penguins and it's like, man, why would penguins,
you know, rid themselves of the ability to fly? That
flying seems really cool and really great, But then you
look at them underwater and they're beautiful swimmers, just elegant, amazing.
Same things with puffins, which actually puffins can fly, but

they you know, when you look at them underwater, they're
incredibly graceful. And these birds that look kind of like
they tend to be very cute as well, like puffins
Kingfisher's penguins. Somehow being more hydro dynamic makes makes you cute.

Speaker 2 (24:16):
And oh, I didn't mention like why the trains were
booming when they were going through the tunnel, because apparently
there's like this is once again getting into like the
physics of it, but when the train it's specifically when
the train is going through a tunnel at high speeds,
because the boom had not been an issue when trains

were slower, but when the trains are going really fast
through an enclosed tunnel, basically all of the air that
the train is pushing up against bunches up at the
nose of the train and just kind of doesn't have
enough space around the train to escape, Yeah, because of
the tunnel.

Speaker 1 (24:53):

Speaker 2 (24:54):
Yeah, So it's bunching up all of the air and
creating this like air cushion up in front of the train,
so that when all that air gets pushed out of
the mouth of the tunnel, it just explodes.

Speaker 1 (25:04):
Yeah. It's like it's like you have a like you
fill a plastic bag with air and then you slap
it and it pops. It makes a big popping sound,
but you're doing that with like a train in a tunnel.

Speaker 2 (25:14):
Yeah. So when trains were slower, didn't really have that problem,
right because you just like it just goes out there,
you know, it's it's not going that fast.

Speaker 1 (25:22):
Yeah, Like, I mean, I think there's a there's a
similar reason, although obviously without the tunnel aspect for sonic
booms for planes, right, Like it's like for super fast planes,
it's just like it is pushing the air, you know,
creating that sort of bunching effect. Even though it's like

it's just going so so fast that it creates that
kind of like impact of like breaking through this like
cone of air.

Speaker 2 (25:52):
Yeah, I mean you look at like jets, you know, like, oh,
look at fighter jets, and they have the exact same
like shape of the nose as kingfisher beaks, right, Like
it's it's nearly exactly the same. You can definitely see
like a lot. And also you know, you look at
a fighter jet. I was just at the Boeing Museum
of Flight. The Museum of Flight is in like Taquila,

really cool, close to where I live, and I have
a three year old, so we've gone to the Museum
of Flight like fifty times. And the jets are weirdly
shaped almost exactly like a Kingfisher, not just in the
pointy knows, but the fact that like the wings are
not super long, the tail is pretty short, like the
things that you were saying about, Like, yeah, the stumpy
tail right kind of like in a lot of different

ways reminds me of the Kingfisher's.

Speaker 1 (26:36):
So cool, it is, really it's it's neat because the
physics that guide animal evolution is also something that we
have to pay attention to, and so all these things
that we develop are going to converge in terms of
natural shapes, either animals, plants, you know, water droplets, whatever.

Like we we can't even though we are inventors and
we can kind of do things like we at the end,
everything on our planet and in the universe has to
obey physics, and so we're gonna keep running into these
parallel structures, which is very cool. And I love that
there's these King Fisher trains that are sometimes pink and purple.

The cutter the better, the cuter the better. I think
that that cuteness may also have some kind of like
aerodynamic thing. I haven't proven it yet, but I'm going
to say.

Speaker 2 (27:30):
Health design will always bend towards cuteness.

Speaker 1 (27:33):
I feel like Hello Kitty will just like make the
air around the train and go like, oh okay, like
and reduce wind resistance, because who can resist Hello Kitty.

Speaker 2 (27:42):
The air simply steps around like right this way, yeah, right.

Speaker 1 (27:44):
This way, ma'am, Miss miss Hello. I guess is her.

Speaker 2 (27:47):
Name, miss miss Kitty?

Speaker 1 (27:49):
Miss Kitty? Okay, I thought her first name's not Hello.

Speaker 2 (27:53):
Please call me hello Miss Kitty?

Speaker 1 (27:55):
Was my mother? Sorry, Miss Kitty? Yes, Miss Kitty is
my mother's name. All right, well, where take a quick
break and wait. When we get back, we are going
to discuss more inventions inspired or one might say, stolen
from animals. Okay, so let's talk about gecko feet, right,

they're weird. Huh.

Speaker 2 (28:18):
Always I'm always game to talk about gecko feet.

Speaker 1 (28:20):
Gecko feet? Have you ever interacted with a gecko?

Speaker 2 (28:26):
Boy? Have I? I have had?

Speaker 1 (28:29):

Speaker 2 (28:29):
Okay, so I've had pet leopard geckos. But leopard geckos
kind of don't count for what we're talking about because
they're actually like ground. They don't climb or stick on things. Yeah,
the leopard geckos stay on the ground, so not important.
We'll forget about them.

Speaker 1 (28:43):
No, cute, don't forget about it.

Speaker 2 (28:45):
I'm cute.

Speaker 1 (28:46):
There's stubby little tails. Their cute little face is so good.
They're so good.

Speaker 2 (28:52):
But I did spend a couple of years working at
a pet store, and the pet store i worked at
sold crested geckos, which are the little the ones that
like it's like those sticky hands that you get at
the store, like you can just like smack them on
and they love just jump out on sides of stuff.
Oh my god, those things scared me so bad because

I was always so scared to clean their cage because
I knew they were going to jump on and jump.

Speaker 1 (29:18):
I had one, so like I had one in college
because we had you are not really technically allowed to
have pets, and says like, all right, how do I
smuggle an animal into my room? Because I love them?
And so I got a crust of gecko. I look,
I feel like I was not well equipped as a

college student who has already sleep deprived to give this
leopard gecko its best life. But I tried. I would
like feed it because like I would feed it baby
food mixed with cricket powder, which was nutritionally sufficient. But
I fear that this poor get go was probably very bored,

and so like I would take it out quite a
bit and let it just jump around and then freak
out when I couldn't find it because it's like, oh God,
I'm gonna step on it. But then I'd always find it.
And it had these amazing feet that like when you
look at them, they're kind of flat and splayed out
and almost leaflike each toe and each toe would have

all these ridges and they're so sticky, velvety, very velvety.
It's very soft, and they are They stick to walls,
they stick to my shirt, my skin, and yet there's
no residue left behind. They're not slimy, they're not gooey.
There's no like glue like secretion that's coming out of
these guys. So it's like it's still this it's like

this weird sticky feeling, and yet when unless it poops
on me, there's no residue left behind, And so what
is what's going on with those feet? So it's really incredible,
and it involves physics that it's a little above my
pay grade, but I'll do my best. So they are
not covered in slime, but they have a bunch of

these tiny ridges, and each ridge is covered in hundreds
of thousands of microscopic hairs. And these microscopic hairs use
something called weak Vanderval's force that helps them adhere to surfaces,
which you know Vander's valls you climb up zim so

the Vandervo force. I think I use that joke the
last time I talked about these geckos, but you know.

Speaker 2 (31:36):
Well I wasn't here.

Speaker 1 (31:37):
So we're making recycling. Recycling is good for the planet,
so recycling jokes must also be good. So the Vanderwald's
force is a weak electrostatic force that occurs when two
molecules are really close to each other, but not too close,
so it's like this, there's this like if they're too far,
you don't have the force at all. If you're too close,

you actually it's like a slight repair helling force, kind
of like when you hold two magnets together with the
same polarity, they kind of repel each other. But if
you're at this sort of Goldilock zone, there's a slight
weak attraction between these molecules and it has something to
do with electron density, and there sort of ends my

ability to comprehend where it's like there is like you know,
but the general idea of like electrons or molecules and
electrons is that they're usually trying to find some kind
of balance of like the number of electrons, and so
if you have sort of a lopsided electron density, you
might have a slight attraction to another molecule because they

have like electrons that are like, oh, I can sort
of fill in this space that's less dense, or it
could repel it, right, like if it's like dense, and
then it like kind of pushes against the other and.

Speaker 2 (32:54):
It may help people to know that. Like the electrons
themselves have like a negative electric chart, yes, and the
protons and the nucleus of the atom have a positive
electric charge. That's like you can get like just like
how magnets have like a north and south pole, right,
Like the positive and negative positively charged areas attract negatively

charged areas, but if the negatively charged areas are too
close together, then they be like.

Speaker 1 (33:19):
No no, no, no, no no no exactly exactly so, but
it's so strange because it's like it's happening on this
extremely tiny scale, and then it's also like you know,
on the atomic scale. And then it's it's something that
the it's not just like a force that is consistent.
It depends on the position of molecules. Like if they're

too close, they are somewhat repellent, but then if they're
like just close enough, there's a slight attraction. Physics is wacky.

Speaker 2 (33:47):
There's a I want to say that, like the don't
the ridges in it like give it a higher surface area,
so there's like more attract.

Speaker 1 (33:55):
Too, exactly, yes, and so when you they also each
hair ends not just like that's the end of the hair,
but it actually ends in sort of like a bristles
or like a dandelion puff of things called so the
hairs themselves are called cite, and then on top of

the hairs, the like bristles are called spatula. And so
because there's millions of these hairs, and then on each
hair there's like hundreds of these spitula, there's hundreds of
millions of like points of connection to the surface. And
so even though the van Dervald's force is super super weak,

when you have a ton of it, right, like a
ton of hairs and a ton of connections, it's strong
enough to hold up the little body of a gecko.
Maybe not a human body, right, we've never invented gecko
shoes that work. But like, if you're light enough and
you have enough of these these hairs, these connection points

that are tiny enough that they can get close enough,
like they have to be tiny, right, so that they
can actually get close enough to the molecules on the surface.
And so like you have all of these teeny tiny
you know, nano like points of contact that each one
is like very weakly attracted to the surface. But then
you add it up times hundreds of millions and then

you get like an actual force that you can observe.
You actually can observe this even if you don't have
a gecko in your life. When you're using microfiber cloths
to clean your glasses, or you know, to dust or
something like, you have a sort of dust that has
like a little bit of you know, microfiber or something,
and it like like it attracts dust to it just

like slightly, and that also uses Vandrvald's forces. So you know,
this is very cool, and obviously we need to exploit
it for our own human needs for tape that doesn't
leave residue, because that is like the number one issue

facing humanity is tape that leaves too much residue.

Speaker 2 (36:07):
So we need everybody we've got on this.

Speaker 1 (36:10):
Every like every mind. Take them away from cancer research
and get get you on some tape that doesn't leave
that gross residue on walls.

Speaker 2 (36:20):
Do you think that there's like a lobby against this
product by big Googon Do you think big like bring
them down many googon.

Speaker 1 (36:31):
Googn's pockets run deep as all I'm gonna say but
follow the money, follow the so yeah, it's researchers looked
into how to recreate this, and they used carbon nanotubes,
which are like very very very teeny tiny structures that
you can use with carbon molecules, and uh, you can

create these like uh, you know, like electron microscope structures essentially,
and they created kind of like similar to like the
gecko feet where it's like not just like a uniform
surface of the carbon nanotubes, but like sort of like
these this like you know, micro pattern of these things

making points of contact, and that allowed them to create
a tape that's like super sticky using these Vandrvold's forces,
but doesn't actually have like a residue, and it's called
nanotape and you can actually buy it. It's like been
out for I don't know, around a decade.

Speaker 2 (37:35):
I have definitely seen people like on TikTok or something
talking about like hanging up posters with nano tape. It's
like it's supposed to be a very renter friendly basically
because it doesn't pull up the tape, it doesn't leave
a hole behind in the wall. It just it's like
it never happens. But the drawback is that it's really
really weak.

Speaker 1 (37:55):
It's carry we don't hang a shell a little bit. Yeah,
you can't hang a shell with it. You can hang posters,
maybe a super lightweight picture frame with a bunch of
the tape. But yeah, it's very weak. But that's because
Vanderval's forces are weak. But you could probably like tape

a gecko to your wall with this nano tape, just
the one gecko, just one gecko. Like if you put
it on a gecko's back, now the gecko can be
sticky on both sides.

Speaker 2 (38:29):
Then you drop the gecko and you see which side
it lands on. And like the cat with a buttered
toast on its back.

Speaker 1 (38:35):
Don't actually put nanotape on gecko. Be nice to gecko.
Probably be a better owner to gecko than I was
in college. Like it wasn't mean to the gecko. I
just feel like it did not get enough stimulation mentally,
This poor little gecko.

Speaker 2 (38:53):
The only thing I remember about the crested geckos that
I took care of in our store. First of all,
so soft, their whole body, velvety, so soft. You don't
think of reptiles as being soft, but they're legitimately very soft.
And pleasant to touch. And also their food which is
like a powdered food that you'd like mix with like moisture,
smelled amazing.

Speaker 1 (39:15):
Mingo, Yeah, no, I mixed it. I would mix so
it was like this powder is like maybe it wasn't
powdered crickets, but some kind of protein powder mixed with
baby food.

Speaker 2 (39:24):
I was always so so so tempted to just just
take a little, just a little.

Speaker 1 (39:29):
Taste to like vitamins. It tasted like kids vitamins.

Speaker 2 (39:32):
It was, you know, so it just makes me want
it more. I love kidamins.

Speaker 1 (39:36):
I just feel like I should have made like a
tiny baby Bjorn and taken this gecko out and about
with me just because like I just feel like this
geka must have been bored because I would try to
play with it. But you know, other than it just
launching itself across the room, like what else is there?
Like it's like, great, the same futan over and over again.

Speaker 2 (39:57):
So I don't know, and so nice hear geckos. Don't
drop them or put tape.

Speaker 1 (40:03):
On them exactly, don't, I mean, but let them jump around,
give them, give them fun stuff, build like.

Speaker 2 (40:09):
It, take them to a trampoline park.

Speaker 1 (40:11):
Yeah, yeah, uh yeah, I'm gonna say, if it's like
crusted gecko day at the trampoline park where it's only
crusted geckos play.

Speaker 2 (40:21):
Or indoor skydiving. Man, if you've took they can jump
around as much as they want.

Speaker 1 (40:25):
If you took a crusted gecko to chuck e cheese,
you'd never find that thing again.

Speaker 2 (40:30):
That's gone.

Speaker 1 (40:31):
It's gone, it's gone. So Elle, you got you got
something for me, You got some kind of invention for
me to hear about.

Speaker 2 (40:37):
I do I have a second invention. So have you
ever heard of a little fish called the yellow boxes?

Speaker 1 (40:47):
Shoot? Love it.

Speaker 2 (40:49):
They're so cute.

Speaker 1 (40:50):
They're cute and they move so funny. It's like they
because they got the teeny little itty bitty fins, but
they beat them real hard, like so kind of like,
I mean, not the same as hummingbirds because it works
kind of different underwater, but it's a similar effect where
they just kind of like boop boop boop move around.

Speaker 2 (41:09):
Yeah. Yeah, So anybody who's not familiar with the yellow
box fish will be astonished to learn that it is
named for the distinct square shape of it's a body.
And could you do fair boxy which is kind of
like you have to kind of be looking at them
from like dead on to see like the box shape,
because from the side they kind of look like a
maybe just a chunky fish. But what's really kind of surprising,

like you said, is that despite their very sort of
bulky and unwieldy form, they are the opposite of hydrodynamic, right,
just they're a complete blunt face.

Speaker 1 (41:41):
But they're like a zion shape.

Speaker 2 (41:44):
Yes, yes, like the S and I'm glad you said
that because that's along a similar vein. But they're surprisingly
agile swimmers, so they can have these little bursts of
speed where they can swim forward really really fast, but
they're really really good at making tight turns, so they
can turn on a dime. They don't have to, like

a lot of other fish maybe need to be kind
of like moving forward while they swim or like while
they turn.

Speaker 1 (42:11):
I got a dripped a little bit, but these guys, yeah,
because they.

Speaker 2 (42:15):
Can just ye on a dime. They can kind of
swivel around, and they're really really agile in the water.
So because they're such you know, skilled little swimmers, the
engineers at Mercedes Benz were inspired to try modeling a
car after the box fish.

Speaker 1 (42:33):
Slap slap on one of these box fish, like, how
what can I do today to get you inside one
of these bad boys?

Speaker 2 (42:41):
You slaping the side of it, like this bad boy
can fish so much planked in it?

Speaker 1 (42:46):
Yeah, making a wet squelching sound every time he hits
the fish.

Speaker 2 (42:51):
Which I'm already excited about because this is just a
cute fish and I love a cute car. So I'm like,
I'm I'm here for it really just visibly, I want
to just esthetically, I'm down.

Speaker 1 (43:02):
I feel like it should be the same rules as
the Olympians rules, where if you make a box fish car,
it has still look like a big box fish.

Speaker 2 (43:11):
It needs to have the spots on it, yeah, and
make like it would have been great if they have.

Speaker 1 (43:18):
It needs to have bubbles come out of the tailpipe somehow.

Speaker 2 (43:22):
It needs to be as cute as but you got
to lean into it. They didn't lean into it as
much as I wanted them to. And this was just
a concept car. This didn't actually make it to the market.
This was introduced in two thousand and five and it
was called the Bionic, which is maybe too cool of
a name for what the car actually looked like because

bionic I feel I associate with bionicles, which I don't
know if they're but it was like robot toys, Yeah,
little robot toys that were popular when I was a kid.
I don't know if they're still popular, but it makes
me think of like a very cool transformer zesque sort
of robot.

Speaker 1 (44:01):
Yeah, I'm looking at it.

Speaker 2 (44:03):
It's a box.

Speaker 1 (44:04):
The thing I appreciate is they did make it shiny
and yellow. It's a very pretty color, so it's it's neat.
I mean, box fish are The cute thing about box
fish is that they aren't like shiny and yellow, but
they are bright yellow and they some species at least
have these like like little black thoughts. They're black polka
dot and adorable, so cute, So it's it's yeah. I

can see though that the shape is sort of box
fish like. It's not nearly as cute as box fish,
but it is.

Speaker 2 (44:36):
And they did kind of back off on like the
squareness of it. It does have like still sort of
an identifiable car shape.

Speaker 1 (44:44):
But what is like, what is the physics concept behind this?
Like why is this okay? Why is the shape good?

Speaker 2 (44:51):
So the engineers believed like this was the plot process
was that the square shape of the box fish was
both reducing drag in the water and stabilizing the body.
So the thinking was that if the fish tilted in
one direction, the water swirling around it would push against

the projecting angles of the body, so like it would
have these sharp angles on like sort of all sides
of its body to push against swirling water when it tilted.
So the idea was that this was keeping it upright
when it made these sharp turns. But this introduced a paradox.

So the stabilization from that kind of maneuvering should make
it more difficult for the fish to make sudden tight turns.
Right if the if the angles are pushing against the water,
then that should make it not very good at making
tight turns. So people were kind of baffled as to
how the fish's box shape could be both more maneuverable

and more stable, because those two things should be a
kind of a trade off from each other. You should
either be more maneuverable or more stable, not both. So
in twenty fifteen, this was ten years after the bionic
was sort of displayed. It like I said, it didn't
really go anywhere it was just a cool idea. Ten
years later, researchers printed, not printed, they made no, they

did print. They made three D printed models of box fish,
and they ran fluid dynamic simulations where they would like
put them in, you know, a box full of water
and like jet water over it basically to see how
the water flows over their bodies and move them around
to see like how the water flowed around them. This
was to test how well they actually reduced drag, and

it turned out that they were terrible at it. They
created a ton of drag in the water, so they
produced twice as much drag as non box shaped fish.
And they also found that their shape actually destabilized them
in the water and made them more likely to spin
out with the flow of water around them. So like

they were not stable at all, like highly maneuverable, not stable.
So if they were to kind of continue on with
this car design, you would have a car that could
make tight turns, but it was going to be falling over,
like it was going to be tiling.

Speaker 1 (47:13):
Well, the thing is that like box fish don't use wheels,
so like the location is different. It's not them like
on a road encountering wind resistance, it's them under the
water encounting like water resistance, but also the locomotion is
from the little the cute, little stubby fence.

Speaker 2 (47:36):
Yes, that was kind of what they came to the
conclusion of because they had always kind of like the
paradox was under the assumption that the shape of the
fish was providing its stability. But after running these simulations
and finding that it actually wasn't, the scientists were like, well,
how do they actually swim so well? Because you can
see the end result they're a good swimmer. So like,

how are they a good swimmer if they're not? Like,
how are they not spinning out every time you know,
a stiff breeze rolls by. I don't know what the
equivalent oc current? Yeah, So like why why are they
not spinning out at all times? And the scientists for, like,
I mean they have fins like they cars don't have fins,
like they have something cars as.

Speaker 1 (48:17):
And cool Lightning strike.

Speaker 2 (48:20):
And that is of course to make it go faster.

Speaker 1 (48:22):
Yeah, light makes it go fast.

Speaker 2 (48:26):
Yeah. So the fish's tiny little fins are actually perfect
because they're so little and so stubby, they can make
very very quick, rapid movements in the water. So they
can make tiny adjustments to fix their tilt and keep
them stable when they would otherwise be spinning out.

Speaker 1 (48:45):
Likes it's more like a drone and not like a car.

Speaker 2 (48:53):
Yeah, like really great for like staying in one spot
and like swiveling around, but not super great for going
forward very fast. Right, And that that research. By the way,
I found the paper. It was called box fish swimming paradox.
Resolved forces by the flow of water around the body
promote maneuverability. And that was by Weasenberg at All in

the Journal of the Rural Society in February of twenty fifteen.

Speaker 1 (49:18):
Man at All the at All family, Like.

Speaker 2 (49:23):
They're killing it.

Speaker 1 (49:24):
They're killing it so many papers.

Speaker 2 (49:28):
Yeah, So I thought it was kind of funny that
like all of this, this entire car was designed based
on like an assumption. But I mean, you know, people
hadn't checked at that point. It was a pretty reasonable assumption.

Speaker 1 (49:40):

Speaker 2 (49:40):
But it's than ten years later scientists were like, yeah,
isn't that weird. We should check.

Speaker 1 (49:47):
Try to make a car in the shape of a
box and see what we can see.

Speaker 2 (49:52):
Yeah, Like we can see like cars did hit the
consumer market that are box shaped. Yeah, my husband had
one at the time when we got together, one of
those Scions, Yeah, the Sion box cars.

Speaker 1 (50:04):
We would always it's nice, there's wind.

Speaker 2 (50:07):
Would always there was certainly a lot of that, and
we would make a joke because sometimes we were little Hellians,
we were little hooligans, you know, speeding around at night
and stuff, and we would joke that if we ever
like spun out or if the car flipped or something,
it would be like rolling a dike.

Speaker 1 (50:26):
It's just like, there's really windy part when you're driving
sort of up California, near northern California, there's some of
this farmland that just gets super windy because there's no
like mountains around to disrupt the wind. And I like,
I was like, am I is my car just gonna
get tipped over because it's shaped like a box and

this is windy.

Speaker 2 (50:48):
Every time it feels.

Speaker 1 (50:49):
Like, yeah, it feels like I'm just gonna get like
blown away and then just tumbleweed my way off the road. Well,
it's good. Try everybody with the box fish car.

Speaker 2 (50:59):
Good, honestly, keep making it. It's a cute car.

Speaker 1 (51:04):
Make a box fish. I want a box fish drone shape.

Speaker 2 (51:09):
Make more cars for purely aesthetic, tell you or cuteness?

Speaker 1 (51:12):
Yeah, the cars are boring now I hate them. So
they're all this gray, gray or black and shape like
a turd.

Speaker 2 (51:22):
Bring back the bionics.

Speaker 1 (51:25):
Let's have bionical cars.

Speaker 2 (51:27):
All right.

Speaker 1 (51:27):
Well, we're going to take a quick break and when
we get back to more inventions that will change your
life or not, I don't know. But they're inspired by animals.
All right. So Ellen, what's what's your two favorite things
in the world?

Speaker 2 (51:43):
My two? I can only pick two. I'm gonna say
Cappy Baris and the Ben and Jerry's Dirt Cup flavor.

Speaker 1 (51:55):
Oh, that's a good Those are two good things. Mine
mine is a butterfly wings and money.

Speaker 2 (52:03):
Mmmm, I do those are great things. I love both
of them.

Speaker 1 (52:07):
But you're kind of like the bin and like if
I could chill out with a Kappy Barra and have
Ben and Jerry's Dirt Cup ice cream and hang out
with the karap bar at the same time, that'd be cool.
But the thing is I can use the money to
get the to get the Ben and Jerry's and the
butter It's.

Speaker 2 (52:26):
True money will unlock all of those experiences and.

Speaker 1 (52:28):
The butterfly wings to fly myself to Kappy Barra World
where you can hang out with the Kabby Burros. That's
not a real thing, but I want it like a
Jurassic Park. But for Cappy barras so.

Speaker 2 (52:43):
Much lower stakes. If they had like a containment breach,
it would not be an issue.

Speaker 1 (52:48):
Right, And so look, you know what, like why what
if money was butterfly wings? That would be much prettier
than stupid old dead presidents. And there is a potential
to use butterfly wings structure in money for things like
counterfeit protection. So butterfly wings like that of the morpho butterfly,

can offer these really amazing iridescined hues. Sometimes butterfly wings
will have like may actually have some pigment in it,
but a lot of times butterfly wings actually produce color
not through pigment but through structural coloration. So we see
color when light of different wavelengths bounce off a surface

and then bonk into light sensitive receptors at the back
of our eye. Pigments work by basically they absorb all
of the wavelengths of light that you don't see, and
then only the wavelength of light that it does not
absorb that bounces off of the pigment into your eyeball

is what you see. So like jazz is about all
of the colors that it does not absorb, So like
an apple absorbs everything except for the red wavelength, and
so it looks like a red apple. Now, structural coloration
it's still all about wavelengths of light hitting your eyeball,

but instead of it being about absorbing light other than
the one color wavelength that you see, it actually works
by bending length through tiny structures, usually little tiny ridges
or kind of hole like structures that kind of act
like microscopic prisms. So instead of absorbing the light, it
is refracting and bending and changing the direction in wavelength

of the light. And so this is one of the
reasons that structural coloration often results in this like iridescence.
So colors that like shimmer and shift as you change
the angle at which you view them or change the
direction of the light. So the light wavelengths actually can
interfere with each other, just like you know, like when

you're looking at a surface of water and you have ripples.
Sometimes the ripples can be additive and sometimes they can
be subtractive, like they can interfere with each other. That
amplifies the ripple effect, and sometimes they can interfere and
basically cancel each other out. And this can happen with
light with a surface where it's like one wavelength of

light is sort of hitting the surface at one angle
and kind of maybe below or near another wavelength light,
and then as they're refracted, if they're kind of bonking
into each other, they can actually either amplify and create
a stronger brighter wavelength or cancel each other out and

make it minmals. So like when you're looking at a
morpho wing, sometimes it shifts can even like kind of
shift between like bright bright like almost blindingly bright blue
or like black, like you can't see any of it,
So it's like that's why you get that weird iridescent
shift in color.

Speaker 2 (56:05):
Taking pictures of them can be a nightmare, yeah, because
you have to get it from like the perfect angle.
And then even when you I feel like when you
take a picture of one, you don't really get the
same effect, like it just it doesn't look as good. Yeah,
you really have to see it in person to really.

Speaker 1 (56:20):
Right, because once you've taken the picture, when you've taken
the picture, you've there is no longer the actual structural
coloration of the wing, you have pigment. You've turned the
structural coloration. The camera has captured the light information from
the structural coloration, but then it's turned it into what
is essentially pigment, right or like you know, pixels work

a little different from pigment because it's actually like emitting
light directly at you. But you know, if you look
at a photograph, that's turned it into pigment, or if
you're looking at it on the screen, it's turned it
into pixels that are emitting light. So everything from butterfly
wings to bird feathers, even some species of snakes have

scales that can do this. There are some types of
plants that can use structural coloration to create these amazing effects.
And so what people are working on is turning that
literally into money. So like there's this company called nanotech Security,
which is totally not a cyberpunk dystopia money security company

that's going to steal your soul. It is trying to
introduce structural coloration to money to help prevent counterfeit dollars.
So the idea is that if you create a portion
of the money that has like these microscopic structures that
offer an iridescent image. It would be so hard and
expensive to try to counterfeit that that it would be

a way to prevent counterfeit money, so like it'd be
super like to create that kind of microscopic nanostructure would
be quite a challenge for someone who's like, I'm going
to put this dollar in photoshop a hip print. I
don't know what how counterfeiting works. I'm sure it's more

complicated than that, but so far they have not created
this yet. There's no butterfly wing money. I think it
would be cool if we just now, I don't want
to hurt actual butterflies, so not like real butterfly wings,
but just making money in the shape of butterfly.

Speaker 2 (58:24):
Wings, and that just was the currency.

Speaker 1 (58:28):
Exactly, Like haven't it cool? Because then we could have
a real sort of like fairy cottage core aesthetic to
our late stage malignant capitalism that I think would be
kind of fun. I like that.

Speaker 2 (58:44):
I'm imagining that maybe the different like amounts of currency
could be like different types of butterfly wings. Maybe like
a monarch is worth a certain.

Speaker 1 (58:52):
Amount exactly like a mor fo is, maybe like a
fifty dollar Atlas.

Speaker 2 (58:59):
We've become full circle. We've come full circle as a nation.
We've looped all the way back around to having monarchs
on our money again.

Speaker 1 (59:08):
Maybe like a I don't know what would be what
would be like a one dollar bill? Who would get
stuck with that? Uh?

Speaker 2 (59:17):
Maybe like a moth?

Speaker 1 (59:19):
Poor, just a normal moth? Yeah?

Speaker 2 (59:24):
Anyone? Who? Okay, have you played Skyrim?

Speaker 1 (59:27):
I have I Skyrim, No, but I know of it.
I have definitely seen Skyrim. I've seen a Skyrim.

Speaker 2 (59:37):
I've seen aware aware of it. H So, when you're
playing Skyrim, if you're playing Skyrim for the first time,
there's an experience, there's like a cannon event, there's like
an experience when you're playing Skyrim. You know a lot
of what you're doing is like you can as you're
walking through the world of Skyrim, you can like forage
basically you'll pass by like plants. Yeah, yeah, you could

just when you pass things, that'll say like collect thing,
and you can just you know, harvest things. And so I,
like many other people, have had this experience of just
walking observing, just taking in the beauty of the world
of Skyrim. And then who comes along but a sweet
little butterfly, a beautiful, just lovely little butterfly, and the
thing comes up. The prompt says collect blue butterfly, and

I'm like, I get to catch butterflies. How blissful? This
is amazing. I'm gonna just catch it, thinking like in
a jar. Perhaps I'm just going to catch this little
butterfly and keep it as my little pet.

Speaker 1 (01:00:34):

Speaker 2 (01:00:34):
So I collect the butterfly and it says added to
inventory two butterfly wings. I was like, that's not what
I wanted.

Speaker 1 (01:00:44):
You just reach out with a big, meaty fist and
grab it. Yeah, just I was like, grip it apart.

Speaker 2 (01:00:53):
I was like, I feel like I was just manipulated
into doing an animal cruelty that I didn't mean to.

Speaker 1 (01:00:58):
Yeah. There is a mod to Skyrim where it turns
all the dragons into Thomas the tank Engines and that Yes,
I saw that video and that's pretty much the only
thing that Sebber made me want to play Skyrim, because
otherwise I feel like I would be too scared of
all the dragons. But if it's Thomas the tank Engines,

I think I could handle it.

Speaker 2 (01:01:22):
I'm just thinking that if if butterfly wings were a
valid currency, in Skyrim that would be great, and that
you could just collect those money.

Speaker 1 (01:01:30):
Yeah, right, like and then if you can, like uh,
I don't know, fairies can use them as accessories. I
don't really know how Skyrim works, but I feel like
butterfly wing money might make capitalism less lame.

Speaker 2 (01:01:48):
On the one hand, it would be bad to like
incentivize people to take wings off of butterflies. On the
other hand, it would be cool if that would encourage
people to perhaps make environmental choices that would like increase
the population of butterflies. Yeah, so like maybe I do
think the environmental incentive.

Speaker 1 (01:02:09):
Yeah, I do think these should be like fake butterfly wings.
I don't think these should be literal like rip the
wings off of a butterfly and then buy a Snicker's
bar with it. Situation that might be untenable. But yeah,
like if we could, if we could like produce sort
of like artificial butterfly wing currency, that'd be awesome.

Speaker 2 (01:02:30):
Last thing, what if what if spotted lantern fly wings
were money? Ah, then we're incentivizing people to go out
and take the wings and kill the spot of light.

Speaker 1 (01:02:43):
Butter lantern flies are super invasive, Uh, I think I
mean they were on the East coast, but I think
they're spreading out outwards. But yeah, they are.

Speaker 2 (01:02:52):
They're like reproducing faster than anyone could kill them.

Speaker 1 (01:02:55):
It's bad because they you know, like when you have
a super invasive species like that they put shout or
eat or out compete native species, and that's bad. So
when you see a spotted lantern fly, which they're kind
of pretty actually because they have like black and white
spot wings and like sort of a reddish pink, it's
it's it's pretty. But where are they there are they

from a yeah, and so like they are, it's not
it's not good because as invasive species, they are wreaking
havoc on the sort of native species, and you are
supposed to kill them on site. I think, yeah, like
either as currency or one of those things. Like they

used to have the like machines where you could put
bottles in them and then like you get money for
recycling bottles. Like if we could have a bounty, a bounty,
if we could have bounty on on uh yeah, these guys,
like that would be fun and then we could all
pretend to be like hardcore bounty hunters when we're squishing bugs.

Speaker 2 (01:03:58):
You could be super cool about it, get like kidded out.

Speaker 1 (01:04:01):
Yeah, like wear a necklace of their wings.

Speaker 2 (01:04:03):
Yeah, because now you're an eco warrior.

Speaker 1 (01:04:06):
Yeah, exactly, you're killing. It's like if all the if
we could like pay people for it, and so like
all the trophy hunters who like kill animals that don't
need to be killed, and then we can get them
on the case, like, look, this will now people will
reward you for for draining the life out of an animal.

Speaker 2 (01:04:24):
I'm just saying, if we've already got like we're already
having to suffer through capitalism, we might as well like
make it work for us one.

Speaker 1 (01:04:31):
Situation, right exactly, Let's get one good use out of it. Yeah,
let's uh, let's turn our sites towards killing the right
thing this time. We got it wrong a lot of times,
but this time I think we'll get it right. Ellen,
you got one more invention?

Speaker 2 (01:04:48):
I do. I have one more. And once again, this
one actually slots pretty well along with what you were
talking about, because mine is also about it's not a bug,
but it is an arthropod. And I think if you're
like a bug chaotic person, like if you're like bug
inclusive and bugs if it's little guys and it's bug.

Speaker 1 (01:05:09):
Yeah, that's my my yea crabs is bugs.

Speaker 2 (01:05:16):
This is about millipedes.

Speaker 1 (01:05:17):
Oh, yes, phillipedes is bugs for sure.

Speaker 2 (01:05:20):
Millipedes gotta be my favorite bug. Like obsessed with these
little guys. They're so friendly, they're friends shaped, they won't
like bite you, like, they're so chill and cool.

Speaker 1 (01:05:31):
And I had one crawl up my leg when I
was a kid. I think it was trying to just
make friends with me with its many, many, many tiny
tickli little legs. I was not into it just to
have this thing. Yeah, just the startling aspect of this
thing crawling up my legs saying hello with all those legs. Uh.

You know, I didn't love that experience. But now I
feel like that I've got on some distance. I like them.
I'm a new one.

Speaker 2 (01:06:03):
Also, I feel like, if you don't if you don't
confidently know the difference between a millipede and a centipede,
which centipedes will bite you and they're very mean, I
could definitely, you know, see, if you didn't know whether
it was a milliped or somethede, you would just probably
err on the side of caution.

Speaker 1 (01:06:19):
Yeah, bite you millipedes are round and shiny and nice,
and cinipedes like.

Speaker 2 (01:06:27):
A little sausage.

Speaker 1 (01:06:28):
Yeah they look, there's fun. Sausage shaped. Centipedes are mean
and pointy and auchi shaped well.

Speaker 2 (01:06:37):
So importantly for the millipedes, millipedes have two sets of
legs per body segment, as opposed to centipedes, which only
have one pair of legs. Millipedes have way more legs
many they have tiny, tiny little legs.

Speaker 1 (01:06:48):
They have a million of the peds.

Speaker 2 (01:06:51):
A milla of them. So each pair of millipede legs
moves symmetrically while both legs on eye their side lift
at the same time, which is different from how like
vertebrates walk. For example, you don't like, you know, lift
both of your front legs and both of your back
legs at the same time. You know, like, vertebrates don't

typically walk like that, but millipedes do. So the individual
pairs each move with a wave motion, so that when
the millipede is walking forwards, the waves ripple from the
back of the body towards the head. So if you
were like looking really really closely at a millipede, that
like kind of like a crowd in a stadium doing
the wave. How like everyone throws their hands up at

the same time. That's kind of what their feet are doing.
But it moves. Yeah, it moved from the back of
the body towards the head. But millipedes can also walk backwards,
in which case they just do it in reverse.

Speaker 1 (01:07:45):
So the wave, that actual wave reversus.

Speaker 2 (01:07:48):
Yeah, so they can do like from from the head
to the back to move backwards. It is really really cool.
And importantly, having so many points of contact with the
surface beneath them makes also their legs are really really
short and their body is short and round. This makes
them extremely stable. Like you are not going to knock

a millipede over unless you're like human sized, you could
be really big, but.

Speaker 1 (01:08:15):
Crawling up your leg and you run around a few times, yeah,
then it takes a little bit of panic to running
for it to fall off.

Speaker 2 (01:08:25):
Well, so keep in mind that they're like detritivores, right,
So they're usually crawling around on things like logs and
dirt and rocks. They're low on the ground, they have
to crawl over a lot of uneven terrain. There's a
lot of obstacles they have to crawl over and around,
so and they get so incredibly stable.

Speaker 1 (01:08:41):
Yeah, it's like they've got such stubby legs and a
round body, but they are so stable and.

Speaker 2 (01:08:47):
So able to and really good at like maneuvering around the.

Speaker 1 (01:08:50):
Obstacles over stuff, like they're good at it.

Speaker 2 (01:08:54):
So the sort of combination of the flexibility and the
resilience of this style of walking has inspired designs for robots.
So the one that I could find when I was
looking around all about this a little bit is a
tiny like only like a millimeter or two long. So
this is tiny, tiny, soft bodied robot that was developed

by that has been developed by the Max Planck Institute
for Intelligence Systems, And it may I think, you know,
I haven't seen them anything about them actually rolling this
out or like using it. I think it's kind of
maybe still in development. They're still kind of working with
it to see if they can use it someday. But
it may someday be used to move through the human body.

Speaker 1 (01:09:36):
Ooh, millipedes inside my blood stream.

Speaker 2 (01:09:40):
Robot millipedes inside your bloodstream.

Speaker 1 (01:09:43):
I'm into it.

Speaker 2 (01:09:43):
Uh, not cyberpunk at all. I'm sure get those bod.

Speaker 1 (01:09:47):
In my body.

Speaker 2 (01:09:51):
I want bug blood, Get me bug blood, get.

Speaker 1 (01:09:53):
Them up in there, have them wiggle around and do
their medicines, medicines on me in there.

Speaker 2 (01:09:59):
It is what is the idea is that they're meant
to carry medicines through that's a door. So if you
have like medicine, I think it's meant to be used
as maybe like a possible alternative to surgery.

Speaker 1 (01:10:10):
Yeah, doctor about you have like yeah, it's just a
little guy.

Speaker 2 (01:10:13):
You just let him zip and zoom up through your
bloodstream and just don't think about it too hard, Like,
don't think about it too much.

Speaker 1 (01:10:19):
I like thinking about bugs in my blood stream doing
medicine on my heart.

Speaker 2 (01:10:24):
The thing is, you've already got little critters in there.

Speaker 1 (01:10:27):
And they're not doing anything that great, Like you got yeah,
you got little time, You got little crabs on your
eyelashes and they're just hanging out there.

Speaker 2 (01:10:38):
Like yeah, you you definitely have more creatures on you
than you think you do. So like, what's one more?
It's not gonna hurt. And this one's a robot, so
it's fine. It's a doctor to anything.

Speaker 1 (01:10:47):
This robot didn't go to five years of medical school
to be called robot. It's a doctor.

Speaker 2 (01:10:51):
Robot, doctor robot millipede. Yeah, which doctor robot millipede. Great
band name there, it is, but it is also very cyberpunk,
you know, like the idea of like putting robots in
your body. We've had a lot of cyberpunk talk.

Speaker 1 (01:11:07):
Yeah, right, future and so.

Speaker 2 (01:11:11):
So this I came across this stuff when I was
doing notes for an episode on millipedes years ago, and
then this morning I was kind of refreshing and I
was like, you know what, I'm gonna look aroun. I'm
gonna see if anything else has been Because I took
these notes years ago, I did find a new paper,
a research article from November of twenty twenty three where
researchers looked at millipede turning and bending as inspiration to

develop navigational strategies for robots. So they basically looked at
the ways that millipedes can use their legs to turn
their body and get around obstacles and stuff, and are
like using that to develop strategies for how we can
get robots to do the same thing. Because you imagine,
just like scale up a millipede to like a huge size,

you could you know, you could use that for things
like Mars like exploration or a moon exploration. Like you're
gonna need a robot to get around bumpy rocks and stuff.
And that paper was called leg Body Coordination Strategies for
Obstacle Avoidance and Narrow Space Navigation of Multi Segmented Legged
Robots And that was by ming Chinda at All in

Frontiers in Neurobiotics.

Speaker 1 (01:12:20):
Very cool, three, very cool. Just one note about the
paper name a little long. I could call it we
put we put robot bugs on Mars question mark?

Speaker 2 (01:12:32):
What if?

Speaker 1 (01:12:32):
What if? Robot?

Speaker 2 (01:12:33):
What if bug? Robot?

Speaker 1 (01:12:34):
Bug? Robot on Mars question mark? I think it's the
idea cross and a lot fewer words. But now that
is that is rata tech. I love that. I love
bug robots. Bring it, sock it to me, like I'll
allow the singularity to happen if they're all cool bug
shaped robots. Like if I got to look at like

a humanoid robot being like we're in charge now, I'm
president now, it's like, eh, I don't love that. But
if it's like a robot bug going like I'm president now,
it's like all right, you know what, Yeah, it's your turn.
That's fine.

Speaker 2 (01:13:09):
Maybe you'll do a better job. Probably, maybe you take
a swing at this. Yeah, sorry about the mess we left.

Speaker 1 (01:13:14):
Yeah, we didn't do a great job, but you guys
are And I feel like in the Matrix they kind
of make the robots all sort of like squiggly and
bug like, and like if I was a human in
the Matrix, I'm like, Wow, you guys built us like
Disneyland for our brains. It's kind of nice.

Speaker 2 (01:13:29):
The bug robot takes office and he's like, who closed
last night? This is a mess. This sucks. You guys
live like.

Speaker 1 (01:13:37):
This, but that's cool. I also I appreciate that, like
millipedes have like such tiny brains and tiny nervous systems,
but they are capable of such complex movement, right, like
the undulating waves of their legs. Like if I was
a millipede, I would immediately get confused and fall over.

Speaker 2 (01:13:52):
To like we're struggling with the two I've got. Yeah,
Like I'm already, yeah, my life on just the two.

Speaker 1 (01:13:59):
Like when you're like climb stairs and sneeze at the
same time and I try it, I fall down and
almost kill myself. It's an either or yeah, So I man.
Props to the millipedes and props to tiny doctor bugs
that are gonna be like crawl up in our body
fluids and do doctor stuff inside.

Speaker 2 (01:14:18):
Let him, I don't let him. Well, we can't talk
about robot bugs without talking about Wild Wild West, of
course obligatory.

Speaker 1 (01:14:25):
I've never seen it. That was the one with Will Smith.

Speaker 2 (01:14:27):
You're not missing anything. Yes, it did have Will Smith
and it famously he turned down the role as I
think it was Neo and the Matrix. I think he
did actually turned down the leading role in the Matrix
to do Wild Wild West instead, which was notoriously a
very terrible movie. It was very very bad. But one
of the sort of most uh intriguing things about the

movie is that at the end, a giant robot spider
shows up, a giant It's like a sitty explain it.
Just keep in mind, keep in mind this is like,
you know, steampunk West's Steampunk West. This giant steampunk robot
spider shows up at the s and it's just there's
kind they kind of like hinted at, like there was

something like, oh, there's something and then oh, it's a
giant robot spider.

Speaker 1 (01:15:18):
It's Jeff, you know, ings around.

Speaker 2 (01:15:23):
But it is kind of like this, you know, the
idea being that like this bug body shape is very
very stable, and yeah, good at getting around, and it's
already it lends itself to robotics. Yeah, yeah, it feels
very mechanical. And yeah there's a giant robot spider like
not to spoil it, sorry.

Speaker 1 (01:15:40):
Yeah, oh god, now I can never watch. Yeah. No,
there's hydraulic there's hydraulics. There's pist in action with spider
legs that lends itself well to like robot you know stuff.
So I'm into it.

Speaker 2 (01:15:54):

Speaker 1 (01:15:55):
I like a scuttling robot that you know that gets
in my interstitial body fluids. So that's great. Ellen. Before
we go, we got play a little game. It's called
them Yes Squawk and Mystery Animal Sound Game. Every week
I play Mystery Animals Sound except for last week and
the week before because I played a Listener Questions episode

and then a Easter rerun. But from two weeks ago
we had a Mister animalsone and it the clue was like,
don't be when I hear this, I'll pack my bag,

all right, Ellen, who do you think this is good? Yeah,
it's pretty bad.

Speaker 2 (01:16:43):
The hint that you gave led me to believe it wasn't.

Speaker 1 (01:16:47):
I'll packa I think I said it. I think I
said it a little bit less spoilery. Last time. It's
like I'm packing my bags when I hear this, But
this time I couldn't. I couldn't help. But the pun.

Speaker 2 (01:17:02):
I have to meta game and say that based on
the hint, I think it was an alpaca, but also
if it is, if I'm right and it's an alpaca,
I will be shocked.

Speaker 1 (01:17:11):
Yeah it's an alpaca, there's no way. Yeah, it's an
pack alarm call. They make a horrible sound when they
are alarmed.

Speaker 2 (01:17:21):
Yeah, that sucks. They should not do that.

Speaker 1 (01:17:23):
They should stop this.

Speaker 2 (01:17:25):
You should teach them a different one. Yeah, y'all can't
be doing this.

Speaker 1 (01:17:28):
Like the recording device is clearly struggling here, like it
is peaking.

Speaker 2 (01:17:33):
Uh, they're clipping.

Speaker 1 (01:17:34):
It is clipping. I am trying.

Speaker 2 (01:17:37):
For a second, I legitimately thought, I was like, are
you having an audio issue? Is this a weird like?
I thought so the audio get corrupted?

Speaker 1 (01:17:45):
I thought so too. In fact, I'm gonna like, I'm
gonna find a different one, just so you can get
the sense that this is not just a crappy recording.
It is a terrible sound as well. Yeah, there it is.
There's that good stuff right, direct that right into my

ear holes.

Speaker 2 (01:18:09):
Yeah that sucks, that's awful like that.

Speaker 1 (01:18:12):
Yeah, that's fun. But you know, our packas are very
very defensive, very territorial, and they will use this as
a warning call for the rest of the I'll paka
herd to be on high alert and they will. They
will stomp and they will be aggressive if they feel
like they are in danger. They are not demure creatures

much like donkeys. They are not demure. In fact, sometimes
like llamas or all, packs are used by farmers with
like other animals to basically protect them and be like
be their buddies because they're very very protective of their
territory and their herd.

Speaker 2 (01:18:50):
They know they're worth they have boundaries. They excellent communication skills. Honestly,
it's been to therapy.

Speaker 1 (01:18:57):
So onto the next mystery animals found the hants is this.
This is a very common sound. So it's not so
much about the trick, isn't so much about who, but
the time I mean is there.

Speaker 2 (01:19:12):
By Yeah, I'm gonna say some kind of groundhog, a
prairie dog or something.

Speaker 1 (01:19:23):
Great. Yeah, well we will find out next time on
Creature feature. If you think you know who is making
that sound, you can write to me at Creature futurepod
at gmail dot com. And Ellen, thank you so much
for joining me today. You're always a delight. Where can
people find you?

Speaker 2 (01:19:39):
Of course they can find me on Just the Zoo
of Us, which is a podcast on the Maximum Fun
network where we review animals. We alternate between me and
my husband doing our own notes and reporting our scores
that we give the animals to each other. And then
we have guest guest episodes where I bring on really
cool people like Amani Weber Schultz, so I talked about earlier,

who is a shark researcher who researches remras and shark
denticles and stuff. So we have really cool people on.
You can find it wherever you get podcasts or on
maximum Fun dot org.

Speaker 1 (01:20:13):
Nice. I thank you guys so much for listening. If
you're enjoying the show and you leave a rating or review,
that absolutely helps the show. I read every single one
and thanks to the Space Classic score their super awesome
song Exolumina. Creature features a production of iHeartRadio, four more poducts,
four more podcasts like We Just Heard, Visit the iHeartRadio,

app Apple Podcast, or Hey, guess what? Why have you
listen to your favorite shows? Not? Your mother can't tell you,
can't tell you how to live your life. You gotta
gotta steer your own ship. See you next Wednesday,

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