Robot jellyfish and mad croc skillz

When Weekender visited the mightily kitschy-but-ace Gatorland in Orlando, we were treated to the sight of a slightly chubby but undoubtedly brave dude wrestling with and sitting on a crocodile. He also managed to make a 4-year-old kid cry by pretending to shut him in the crocs’ pen, but that’s another story.
Still, it was entertainment of sorts, although not as good as our stunning, sterling partner in crime getting chased down the pond path by an angry goose.

But it got us thinking: How hard do these creatures bite? Luckily, Greg Erickson of Tallahassee’s Florida State University has been working on it. Intrepid researchers collated results from 11 years and 83 crocs and alligators, by strapping the creatures down and putting a bite force device between their back teeth. They then made casts of the teeth for pressure testing purposes. And the force value? A cool 3,700 pounds for a 17 foot saltwater croc, and tooth pressures of 350,000 pounds per square inch. Greg says that it is possible to escape from a croc’s bite ‘If you can bench-press a pickup truck.’ Weekender can only do a mini-van, unfortunately.

Why? Why? Why?

Slightly sinister science of the week comes from the United States Navy, which is developing Robojelly: a robot jellyfish. It’s made with shape-metal alloy, which remembers its original shape even after being dinged about and is covered in platinum black powder, which reacts with water to create heat. This travels to artificial muscles which causes the eight segments to react and contract; because of the alloy they then return to the original shape.

Ingenious stuff, for sure. But when Skynet becomes self-aware you’d better stay outta the water, too.

Not to be outdone, trees are getting in on the act. We may think they’re just tall versions of broccoli loitering around in fields attracting badgers, but a team from Queensland University of Technology’s International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health know otherwise.

In a study of six Brisbane locations, they found that positive and negative ion concentrations in the air were two times heavier in the woods than in open grassy areas. The conclusion Weekender has drawn from this is that an army of terrific electric trees – let’s call them triffids for short – is about to attack humans. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

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