This month, Horizon looks at the growing field of bio-inspired robotics to find out how nature is inspiring machine design. We investigate the surgical tools that mimic how octopus arms become flexible or stiff on demand, sensors based on the orientation ability of maggots, and marine robots inspired by lilypads, fish and mussels.
Animals have evolved sophisticated ways of processing sensory data to make sense of their surroundings. Now, robotics researchers are drawing inspiration from biological processes to improve the way machines handle information, perceive their surroundings, and react to stimuli.
Robotic arms inspired by the octopus could help doctors to perform new operations using keyhole surgery. By mimicking the octopus arm to transform from soft and flexible to stiff and rigid, these soft robotic tools could increase the scope for operations through small incisions.
How did European eating habits go so wrong? We have a plentiful supply of fresh food yet, according to Eurostat, one in every two people in Europe is either overweight or obese, leading to problems such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and lifestyle-related diabetes. In May, we delve into the complex science of healthy eating to understand how to tackle modern-day malnutrition. We speak to public health expert Knut-Inge Klepp about the complex factors determining food choice and how to improve the diet of teenagers. We find out how scientists are working to improve the zinc content of crops to prevent the ‘hidden hunger’ of micronutrient deficiency and look at the importance of widening the diversity of grains that we eat – both for our health and for the environment. We also explore what’s behind the nutritional self-sabotage of eating disorders.
As May’s European elections approach, Horizon takes a step back to see what science can tell us about European politics. We look at the latest research into people’s opinions about the EU and how they’ve changed, particularly in response to the financial crisis of 2008, and ask what needs to be done to bring the public closer to politicians. We speak to cryptography expert Dr Steve Kremer about why most of us can’t vote online yet, and democracy specialist Prof. Wolfgang Merkel about the changing political party structures in Europe and whether this is a threat to democracy. We also find out how scientists are working to detect and flag fake news on social media in order to increase the transparency of the information people encounter online.
Each of us harbours hundreds of man-made chemicals inside our bodies because we are exposed to them in our daily lives. While individual chemicals may not be of immediate concern to public health, scientists now worry that certain mixtures of them may pose previously underestimated risks to health.
Teenagers rarely have a say in the public health policies that concern them, but we can’t halt the childhood obesity problem without working with them, says Professor Knut-Inge Klepp, executive director of the mental and physical health division at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
Dedicated policies and guidelines aim to reduce everyday exposure.
Mental health and free wifi in fast food joints have been raised as pertinent issues, says public health expert.
Notre Dame restoration is a learning opportunity, says historian.