This bad-boy-in-a-shell could be used as inspiration for body armor, according to scientists. Meet the Crysomallon Squamiferum, or ‘scaly-foot gastropod.’ He could end up saving your life.
Hailing from the Central Indian Ridge, the snails can ward off attacks from crabs and other menaces thanks to what its hard shell is composed of. Inside hydrothermal vents iron sulphide particles are found, and combined with a spongy middle layer it means that when something strikes it—like a mean crab’s claw—it absorbs energy by allowing the shell to crack, or “microcrack” as the scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are calling it.
The shells also offer a form of attack, as well as defense. In a small way, at least. The iron sulphide will apparently make any attacking claws blunt, by grinding them down.
Whether we’ll see it on the next stab-proof vests is anyone’s guess, but at least we now know to avoid these scaly-foot gastropods. I’m certainly not going to eat any when I’m next in France, anyway. [New Scientist]
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Exoskeleton for grannies
Finding ways to assist and care for the growing elderly population in many developed countries is a growing problem. One challenge is to work out how to improve the strength and utility of ageing limbs.
Yoshiyuki Sankai at the University of Tsukuba near Tokyo, has developed an exoskeleton for a single arm that can do just that.
The device consists of a tabard worn over the shoulders with a motorised exoskeleton for one arm attached. The exoskeleton senses the angle, torque and nerve impulses in the arm and then assists the user to move his or her shoulder and elbow joints accordingly.
Read the full arm exoskeleton patent application.
Justin Mullins, New Scientist consultant
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