When bacteria attack a host, they aren’t a conversation about whether to go after a particular cell; they’re doing something called quorum sensing, which means that just by sensing what others around it are doing, an individual starts doing a certain thing. Social insects use a similar technique to pick out a new nesting site.
Now, thanks to some elegant nature-inspired programming by MIT researchers, a pack of bipedal robots are using quorum sensing to execute a complex behavior that human groups have tried—and, by and large, failed—to perform for decades: The robots can do the Thriller dance in unison—and, what’s even more impressive, if one misses a few steps, it can rejoin the other dancers without a hitch.
This sort of technological synchrony, Technology Review’s arXiv blog points out, could make such robots invaluable in construction or manufacturing tasks that require high levels of cooperation. That would be well and good, but after seeing those moves, we’re just wondering what other dances they might know—and whether they do bar mitzvahs.
Turns out humans aren’t the only ones who can keep a beat!
This sulphur-crested cockatoo can dance “in time” to a changing rhythm—and in a particularly impressive display, it can even raise its feathers when the music picks up.
What does it take to get scientists to dance? A Youtube contest, of course. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) announced yesterday the winners of its Science Dance Contest, which called on science graduate students, post-docs, and professors to create and videotape a dance about their research.
Out of 36 entries, the four winning dances used contorting bodies to explain protein-DNA interactions, neuron firing, hemoglobin, and the role of vitamin D in beta cell function. Other submissions ranged from ballet to tango, hoola-hooping to traditional Indian dance, as well as scientists just jiggying in their labs. View them all here.
The idea for the contest came from John Bohannon, a science journalist who started a Dance Your Ph.D. contest last year.