A Gear Discovered in Nature

As the legs unfurl to power the jump," Burrows says, "both have to move at exactly the same time. If they didn't, the animal would start to spiral out of control." Larger animals, whether kangaroos or NBA players, rely on their nervous system to keep their legs in sync when pushing off to jump--using a constant loop of adjustment and feedback. But for the issus, their legs outpace their nervous system. By the time the insect has sent a signal from its legs to its brain and back again, roughly 5 or 6 milliseconds, the launch has long since happened. Instead, the gears, which engage before the jump, let the issus lock its legs together--synchronizing their movements to a precision of 1/300,000 of a second.

A Gear Discovered in Nature
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