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Sidewinders vs. robots: how a herpetologist learned to love physics

Mendelson III, Joseph R.

Zoo Atlanta

Atlanta, Georgia USA

Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, Georgia USA

Our collaborative team based at Zoo Atlanta and Georgia Tech, working with a number of additional institutions, has produced a series of about 10 papers involving the interface of snakes and sand substrates, focusing heavily on sidewinders (Crotalus cerastes). The team included biologists, physicists, and a variety of types of engineers. One of our most novel approaches was to develop a robotics model to test alternate gaits, for example, in a non-biological sidewinder. I will review the highlights of this series of papers and discuss the sometimes bumpy, sometimes hilarious, and often illuminating experiences of working with such a diverse group of specialists—an intellectual Dream Team if there ever was one.

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