Research at Penn State University reveals the intricate flips and twists that a fly performs to execute an inverted landing. Understanding the mechanics of the motion could help engineers design robotic fliers that land upside down, too.
Even in this digital age, we continue to extract ideas and materials from insects and their relatives. However, the challenge of today may be to avoid a strictly utilitarian view of other organisms, whereby a species is expendable if it cannot demonstrate economic value that can be measured in dollars.
Engineers may recognize the internal muscle structure of a honey bee abdomen for its resemblance to a Stewart platform, a mechanical device that enables six degrees of freedom in movement. Researchers who have found its natural equivalent in bees say the discovery is already informing their work in designing articulating nose cones for rockets.
Some insects look like science-fiction stars precisely because the creative minds behind popular entertainment look to insects to spark their imagination.