By @SimonCocking review of  How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls: Animal Movement and the Robots of the Future by David L. Hu. Available here

Insects walk on water, snakes slither, and fish swim. Animals move with astounding grace, speed, and versatility: how do they do it, and what can we learn from them? In How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls, David Hu takes readers on an accessible, wondrous journey into the world of animal motion. In turn, the latest discoveries about animal mechanics are inspiring scientists to invent robots and devices that move with similar elegance and efficiency.

This is a great book. It is fun, smart, interesting, thought provoking, and a glorious reminder of the value of the natural world and how much it has to teach us. We have to read and review a lot of business books, and we aim to be as objective and critical about them as possible. A book like this is a pleasant breath of fresh air, as the author explains the surprising, interesting and unexpected insights they have gained from looking at the animal world. Why do sharks swim so quickly, how do insects walk on water, do all animals urinate at the same rate, and how this can have helpful repercussions for our own lives?

As with all areas of science these days, it is unfortunate that politics is never too far away. The author had the dubious achievement of having three of his projects ranked among the most wasteful use of public funds for science projects in the US. Except of course that if we study and learn things in an open ended way, then the potential benefits are far wider than merely approaching from a predetermined perspective. In Hu’s TEDx talk, included below, he gives a great summary of the themes of the book. See it as a helpful taster before going on to read this great book as well.

David L. Hu is associate professor of mechanical engineering and biology and adjunct professor of physics at Georgia Institute of Technology. He lives in Atlanta. @drdavidhu

In his Tedx Talk ‘Confessions of a Wasteful Scientist’, David defends the importance of basic scientific research with wit and humour.


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