Let's just hope they keep it away from the Bunsen burner
November 20, 2007 12:13 AM   Subscribe

In research that may one day help restore mobility to the paralyzed and amputees, Dr. Charles Higgins of the University of Arizona has created a "robo-moth": a 6-inch tall wheeled robot guided by an electrode inserted into a single neuron responsible for vision stability during flight in the hawk moth (aka the Tobacco hornworm).

Here's a related paper [pdf] on biorobotics and the hawk moth for anyone realllly interested. Neuroscience and electrophysiology background possibly a plus.
posted by mayfly wake (7 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I, for one, welcome our robo-moth overlords.
posted by damclean2 at 1:03 AM on November 20, 2007

In research that may one day help restore mobility to the paralyzed and amputees,...

...and enable madmen to create an army of cyber-insects to RULE THE WORLD!!!!

How come science journalists never run with the Mad Scientist angle on stories like these? Why does it always have to be blah-blah-blah-helping paralytics-blah blah Parkinsons disease, blah blah. One day, when some scientist invents a 40 foot tall spider with laser beams shooting out of it's eyes, it'll be hailed in your local newspaper as "the beginning of a new and exciting field of research into arachnid-human relations".

Still, good FPP.
posted by Avenger at 1:09 AM on November 20, 2007

Research unfortunately stalled after the third robot prototype trial ended by crashing into the light on the patio.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 4:01 AM on November 20, 2007 [2 favorites]

How come science journalists never run with the Mad Scientist angle on stories like these?

In the current global climate? With a war on Iraq, and NIH funding drying up? Not a chance.

Once upon a time, a young scientist could dream of becoming the next Great Madman. The breakthroughs in transgenics in the 80s and 90s had a lot of us believing that we could be creating the ultimate Supervillians within 10 years. And with the discovery of gfp around the same time, we hoped they could be fluorescent to boot! Human genome project completion had us thinking, "Now we can finally give deranged hyper-aggressive mass murderers a second Y chromosome?", and "can we create a James D Watson who isn't an asshole?"

And then Clinton put all this money into research, and our dreams grew. I know three scientists personally who were this close to creating an army of undead/unkillable, super-intelligent, flying beaver-monkeys when 9/11 hit, and funding for their projects just dried up in the years to follow. And when you stop research at such a crucial moment, all you're left with is a militia of slightly retarded, stumpy-winged spider monkeys with big teeth.

Nowadays, the most we can hope for is to hold the world to ransom from our virus-based ethnic cleansing systems, while Elle McPherson clones attend to our every whim. Not even worth the notoriety really.
posted by kisch mokusch at 5:00 AM on November 20, 2007 [4 favorites]

"Sometimes science is fucking wrong and gives us shit we don't need...they might as well go, 'Hey, we made cancer airborne and contagious! You're welcome! We're science: we're all about coulda, not shoulda.'"
--Patton Oswalt
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:15 AM on November 20, 2007

Hawk moth

(Sorry, it's just that "tobacco hornworms" are the larvae of one of about 1200 species of hawk moths.)
posted by lodurr at 5:57 AM on November 20, 2007

lodurr: I guess I didn't make it clear, but Higgins' lab uses Manduca sexta, the tobacco hornworm that will eventually become robo-moth.
posted by mayfly wake at 7:24 AM on November 20, 2007

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