Saturday, January 28, 2012

Finally - Something Useful About Scorpions

My readers may be aware that I personally have little use for scorpions.  This peculiar little quirk of mine sometimes manifests itself in the act of stomping on scorpions with my boots.

Stomping on scorpions is often a futile act.  While it does annoy them somewhat, little else is usually accomplished.

But now, Research Engineers in China say there could be something useful we can learn from scorpions: how to minimize abrasive wear of engineered components.  In its essence, this paper hypothesizes that since scorpions live in sandy places that sometimes also are windy, this equates to scorpions being frequently sand-blasted.  And since there are very few news accounts of scorpions being killed by sand-blasting, they must have some secret to surviving sand-blasting attacks.

And because the researchers are Manufacturing Engineers and not Materials Engineers, the only possible reason that scorpions survive in sandy windy deserts must be the shape of their exoskeleton.  Another compelling reason to believe this is that the engineers have some really cool 3D laser scanning equipment that needs to be used.

Is this beginning to sound just a little Bogus to you, too?  Did it also occur to you as it occurred to me that scorpions survive sandstorms by - and this is just a crazy, wacky idea I had - Hiding?  Is it possible that scorpions, being alive (sort of), might be able to sometimes re-grow parts of their shell that get damaged or sand-blasted?

"No way," said the engineers.  "We've got this cool laser scanner that can resolve features down to 0.2 mm.  Plus we'll get to mess around with UV lights!  Scorpions are fluorescent, you know."

They make an excellent point.  As an Engineer, it's what I would have done, too.  But as a Scientist, I also have to look objectively at the data:

Notwithstanding the overly-optimistic conclusions of the researchers and that of the press, the data show that the presence of sub-millimeter grooves and ridges on a surface makes erosion worse under some conditions and better under others.  At best, if the direction of the abrading medium can be tightly controlled, manufacturing high-wear items with massively expensive tiny ridges could yield a slight extension of service life.

I knew it all along!  Damn scorpions are good for nothing.


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