Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Snake Secrets

PostedJune 21, 2009

Download File (mp3)

Randy Atkins: The scales on a snake’s belly turn out to be a key to its movement.  David Hu, a Georgia Tech mechanical engineer, says they’re designed like overlapping shingles…easily sliding in one direction, and digging in in the other.

David Hu: We could account for 65-percent of the snake’s speed simply based on the properties of the scales alone.

Randy Atkins: Hu says most of the rest comes from the snake shifting its weight.

David Hu: It can push its scales against the ground in directions that will actually generate friction that will force it to move forward.

Randy Atkins: If engineers can mimic snake movements, applications might include robots that can slither into disaster scenes or even our bodies.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, 103 point 5 F-M and WTOP-dot-com.




  • The paper by Hu and colleagues in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Movies of snake movements from the experiments
  • A book on biologically-inspired, snake-like robots