News in Brief: Molecules/Matter & Energy

Groovy snake bits, buzzy microphones and coiling liquids in this week’s news

News in Brief: Molecules/Matter & Energy

Groovy snake bite
Snakes dont need fancy pressurized fangs to inject venom. A groove on the outside of the tooth, which is more common, will do. The secret to this simple but deadly anatomy starts with the surface tension of the thick venom, which oozes out of a gland in the snakes mouth. This tension allows the venom to stick to the tooth and spread out slowly, fearless scientists in the United States and Germany who milk snakes report. After a snake bites down, the victims tissue forms a tube that rapidly draws in the poison in less than a second, as described in an upcoming Physical Review Letters. Devin Powell

Microphone buzz
A new microphone is intentionally buggy. The pinhead-sized sensor is as good at detecting the direction of a sound as are the super-sensitive ears of the Ormia ochracea fly that inspired the technologys design. Sound waves striking the device at an angle cause three trampoline-like membranes to wobble out of synch with each other. A vibrating beam based on the flys anatomy connects these membranes and amplifies the pattern, engineers at the University of Maryland in College Park report in the May Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. The Army Research Laboratory, which is working with the Maryland group, hopes the sensor will help microscale robots navigate. Devin Powell

Liquid-solid limbo
You cant tie it in knots, but a stream of shaving cream behaves like solid rope when it coils in a pile, scientists have discovered. Hair gel, however, piles up more like liquid honey. The experiments suggest that when coiling behavior matters, such as when filling jars with flowy foodstuffs or manufacturing using injectable plastics, you have to know whether to treat in-between materials as solids or liquids, researchers from Iran, the Netherlands and France report in an upcoming Physical Review E. If the material is more like a liquid, determining flowiness will predict coiling behavior; if its more like a solid, coiling is dictated by how the material deforms under stress. Rachel Ehrenberg