Jumping Bean Robots
June 20, 2012 10:56 PM   Subscribe

A team of Georgia Inst of Technology engineers has published a study of the rolling action of Mexican jumping beans. "The researchers developed an algorithm of the beans’ behavior, which they then used to program rolling robots to move in a controlled direction." Abstract here. Interesting video of bean races included.
posted by Isadorady (11 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You laugh now but this is how eventually Skynet works out how to build its vast armies of cyborg zombie vegetables
posted by Bwithh at 11:07 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Originating in the northwestern mountains of Mexico, Mexican jumping beans (Laspeyresia saltitans) begin their lives when the mother moth lays its eggs in the flowers of a native fern in early summer. When the flowers mature, they turn into pie-shaped seed pods, which split apart to entrap moth larva in sections resembling slices of a pie. Mid-summer rains cause each 1-cm-diameter seed pod section, or “bean,” to drop from the fern to the ground. To escape from the hot sun, the entrapped larva must quickly find shady areas where the temperature is cooler, and spends the next 6-8 months in the seed pod jumping and rolling around to seek out shade.
I wonder how that arrangement evolved.
posted by delmoi at 11:08 PM on June 20, 2012

Is this the thread where we overthink a plate of robotic racing jumping beans?
posted by XMLicious at 11:09 PM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

lays its eggs in the flowers of a native fern

Ferns don't flower.
posted by mike3k at 11:21 PM on June 20, 2012

Oh Tech students. You guys have too much free time.
posted by strixus at 11:43 PM on June 20, 2012

actually tech student to be thankful as they invent some machine which are very helpful to mankind.
posted by makshi99 at 1:43 AM on June 21, 2012

history of surrealism sidetrack comment

"Roger Caillois ... was friends with André Breton and a fellow Surrealist; but in 1934 they parted over the Surrealist commitment to mystery for its own sake: Caillois was an investigator of a more empirical temper.

Caillois’s disagreement with Breton arose when the two men were shown some Mexican jumping beans: beans that will suddenly twitch and take a leap into the air. Caillois conjectured that there was a worm or larva inside them, and he wanted to dissect one to find out; Breton objected roundly, denouncing Caillois as a low-grade positivist who refused the marvelous and defaced the poetic by wanting explanations—in other words, Caillois was of the party that wants to unweave the rainbow.

For Breton, hasard objectif—objective chance or unpredictability—admirably disrupted the harmonious patterns of reason and delivered the mind-expanding stimulus of disorder: convulsive beauty. Caillois wrote a lettre de rupture to Breton, which confirmed the depth of his quarrel with Surrealism, declaring that he wanted “research and poetry” together. He went on, “I want the irrational to be continuously overdetermined, like the structure of coral; it must combine into one single system everything that until now has been systematically excluded by a mode of reason that is still incomplete.”

from cabinet
posted by lucia__is__dada at 2:35 AM on June 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

I smell an IgNobel.
posted by Gungho at 5:30 AM on June 21, 2012

Holy Crap. A Mexican Jumping Bean is a real thing!
posted by Philby at 7:34 AM on June 21, 2012

I'm not sure what use there is for this, but I have absolute faith that there will turn out to be one. Unfortunately it probably will involve Skynet.
posted by lodurr at 10:04 AM on June 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seriously, though, just think this through: It's a strategy for taking a series of single actions to achieve a critical end (stay cool). It seems to me there are lots of applications for a really good random seek algorithm, and this one's got tens of thousands of years of evolution behind it.
posted by lodurr at 10:06 AM on June 21, 2012

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