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GRASP Special Seminar – David Hu, Georgia Tech, “Snakes on a Plane”

June 18, 2010 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Abstract: Snakes propel themselves over land using a variety of techniques, including sidewinding, lateral sinuous slithering and a
unidirectional accordion-like mode. We explore these friction-based propulsion mechanisms through a combined experimental and theoretical investigation. Particular attention is given to classifying the gaits of snakes according to Froude number and the relative magnitudes of the frictional forces in the tangential and normal directions. Using mathematical modeling, we prescribe the waveform of the snake and calculate its motion as required by the torque and force balances on its body. A key feature of our model is the rationalization of snake motion on the basis of frictional properties of the snake’s belly scales.  The prospect of building synthetic snake scales for robotic applications is discussed.


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David Hu is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech. Previously, he served as an instructor at New York University and as a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2001 B.S. mechanical engineering, 2005 Ph.D. Mathematics). His lab studies animal locomotion using an array of techniques from interface science (friction and surface tension). Their work has been featured in The Economist, Nature, The New York Times, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic. This month, their work on snakes is discussed in American Scientist.


June 18, 2010
11:00 am - 12:00 pm
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