The Week Unwrapped: Snake robots, farm protests and pet food
What can we learn from the skin of sidewinders? Why are farmers descending on Delhi? And would your cat eat lab-grown mouse protein?
Olly Mann and The Week delve behind the headlines and debate what really matters from the past seven days.
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In this week’s episode, we discuss:
Research published this week by Emory University in Atlanta has suggested that the reason sidewinding snakes are able to move so quickly over sand is that their scales are covered in microscopic dimples that help to reduce friction between their skin and the sand. This discovery, scientists suggest, could lead to a new approach to robotics - for example in machines designed to cross loose ground after mudslides or earthquakes.
Long-running agricultural protests in India turned violent this week as farmers broke into the Red Fort in Delhi and one protester died in disputed circumstances. What sparked the demonstration is the government’s decision to abolish minimum guaranteed prices for wheat, rice and other produce, which many small farmers believe will leave them unable to survive.
Meatless pet food
In the West, pet owners are more likely than others to be vegetarians or vegans, and yet many have no choice but to feed their animals meat. Now, though, they can buy pet food which has been grown in the lab from the cells of mice, providing the necessary nutrition without causing any harm - and potentially reducing the environmental impact of agriculture.