Americans like to "think big!" But science says bigger is not always better. In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge, a celebration of things small: airplanes that fit in your hand, transistors invisible to the naked eye, and robots the size of cockroaches. Also, the biology behind Hollywood's incredible shrinking man.
Robert Michelson is an aerospace engineer at Georgia Tech where he works on designing flying machines the size of birds, and hopes to get them down to insect-size. He tells Steve Paulson how these machines might be used by the military or in hostage negotiations, or to protect crops. Also, University of Illinois biologist Fred Delcomyn tells Jim Fleming that we don't give cockroaches enough credit and that they're terrific models for engineers trying to design autonomous mobile robots -- devices that might explore the surface of another planet or crawl inside a nuclear reactor.SEGMENT 2:
Biologist Michael LeBarbera teaches biomechanics at the University of Chicago, and devours "B" movies. He tells Jim Fleming that most movie monsters are structurally ridiculous; that you should go for the legs of those vastly scaled-up radioactive ants; and that the incredible shrinking man (and his ilk) can't get a drink. Also, paleontologist David Jablonski (also from the University of Chicago) says his study of prehistoric clams and mollusks indicates that there is no evolutionary imperative to get bigger. He tells Steve Paulson that size depends on particular animals in particular ecological situations.SEGMENT 3:
Stanford physicist Michael Riordan tells Judith Strasser that transistors are still around, but have been transformed by advances in technology. He says they're now the size of a virus. Riordan is co-author (with Lillian Hoddeson) of "Crystal Fire: The Birth of the Information Age."Cassette copies are available at 1-800-747-7444. Ask for program number 98-02-15-B.
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