KSC Biomimicry - Pogo Stick: The Pulse of the Planet daily radio program offers free legal online mp3 downloads, exploring the world of sound in nature, culture and science, with audio adventures, world music, extraordinary sound portraits, science diaries, and nature ring-tones; an amazing sonic experience.

Airdate: Sep 28, 2009
Scientist: Bob Full

KSC Biomimicry - Pogo Stick

KSC Biomimicry - Pogo Stick
If you've bounced on a pogo stick, you're already well on your way to understanding how animals run.

music; ambience pogo stick

RF: “We discovered something very surprising about how animals run, and they all move very much like a pogo stick.”

[sfx pogo stick]

If you’ve ever bounced along on a pogo stick, you’ve got the basics for understanding the basics of how an animal any animal"runs. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Bob Full is a professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, in Berkeley. He studies how animals run, and uses those ideas to inspire the design of robots.

RF: “It’s very hard to understand the general patterns of motion by just looking at how your body moves. You want to combine the motion (that we call kinematics) with the forces that you generate to push on the ground. When you combine both of those, then we have a complete picture of movement. So, by taking animals and running them over a kind of fancy scale that measures forces in all directions, called a force platform, we noticed that the pattern of an insect, a crab, a dog, and you were all the same with respect to how they pushed on the ground. They bounce along like a kangaroo and move in the same way that you and I do. They all produce a pattern that’s similar to a pogo stick, where your one leg works like two legs of a trotting dog working together as one leg, or three legs of an insect working as one, or four legs of a crab.”

[sfx pogo stick]

Engineers are using Bob Full’s data to develop nimble robots that can move quickly and adapt to changes in terrain. Bob is also one of the participants in the Kids’ Science Challenge, our nationwide competition for third to sixth graders, made possible by the National Science Foundation. A new competition launches October first at kidsciencechallenge.com.

I’m Jim Metzner.