Friday, June 10, 2011

Sci-Nonfi: RoboRoaches

On an otherwise unremarkable day in May, I spent time with high school students and neuroscientists and their remote-controlled cockroaches.
Two live RoboRoaches on a lab table

My essay appears in The Curator today. An excerpt:
The students finish the SpikerBoxes; the cockroach experience begins. A few Blaberus discoidalis cockroaches will have a limb surgically removed. The legs, the scientists explain, have neurons firing in them, even after they are amputated, and will remain alive for up to two days.
Volunteers take on the roles of anesthesiologist and surgeon. Marzullo guides them through the procedure. The cockroaches are removed from their habitat and submerged in ice water. Using small, curved scissors, the leg is quickly and carefully cut and pinned to a SpikerBox. Students huddle around it, waiting to hear the spikes. It sounds like static. Gage and Marzullo then connect the box to an iPad, and students can see a visual representation of the sounds.
They discuss possible responses of the leg to stimuli, and reveal what will be one of the student’s favorite experiments: How will a cockroach leg respond to the sound vibrations of hip-hop, specifically the song “Love the Way You Lie?”
Read the entire story here.

You can read The Oakland Press article, learn more about Backyard Brains, or prepare for the coming RoboRoach invasion.

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