Weekly News Bites: Which animals are friends or food, a climbing robot, and super space seeds

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are how we determine which animals we would eat or not, a robot with sticky magnetic feet that can climb, and coriander seeds that had a great holiday in space.

Which animals do we classify as friends and not food? Even further, which do we classify as neither friends nor food but are “worth fighting for”? Where do dogs, pigs, alligators, and sharks fit in these categories? It is all rather subjective, says James Cook University Singapore after scientists conducted a study where people had to categorize a list of animals based on characteristics such as warmth and competence. 

A robot that can climb up walls like a spider might sound a little unnerving but MARVEL, created by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), is only here to help! The researchers built this robot with electromagnetic feet covered in a rubbery material to ensure that it sticks to metal surfaces. MARVEL could be useful when investigating industrial sites that are dangerous to humans.

How do we know exactly what the dinosaurs ate? Apart from seeing the contents of their stomachs (which can be difficult to find), a good way is by looking at their teeth. University of Tokyo scientists studied dinosaur teeth in microscopic detail to look at the wear and tear caused by the food they ate.

Normally all batteries have a limited lifespan but the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia and Yokohama National University may have found a solution to a long-lasting power source for things like electric cars. The team looked at a new type of positive electrode material that is durable and stable and allowed them to charge and discharge their battery hundreds of times with no loss of capacity.

A journey to space can be tough on living creatures. Astronauts have to go through rigorous training for their well-being both during and after their missions. Coriander seeds, however, seem to love the low-gravity conditions. A team including the Singapore Food Agency, Singapore Space and Technology, the A*STAR’s Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), and the SingHealth Duke-NUS Institute of Biodiversity Medicine (BD-MED) looked at what happens to plants when they return from space. The “space coriander” produced a larger yield than seeds that were kept on Earth.