“The Lord God said to the serpent: …on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.” That, according to the Book of Genesis, is why snakes no longer have legs. And evolutionary evidence confirms this: according to the American Museum of Natural History, snakes descended from legged lizard-like ancestors that lived over 100 million years ago. Even today, python snakes still have vestigial legs left over from these ancestors.
But people being people, we couldn’t leave God and nature well enough alone.
YouTuber and self-described “failed mythbuster” Allen Pan went viral recently with his video of a cybernetic snake outfitted with robot legs:
In the two short days since it was posted on August 13, the video has exploded with over 1.6 million views.
Powered by a lithium polymer battery, the set of legs were designed to mimic lizards’ gait and walking pattern. And while the experiment proved successful in carrying the snake forward, Pan’s prototype has yet to be controlled by the snake itself. And that part is a bit tricky.
According to Philippines-based maker group Philrobotics’ external vice president, Engr. Johnaray Dimaunahan, this would involve understanding and detecting the basic muscle movements that a snake does when it wants to move in a certain direction and translating these into instructions for the robot limbs.
“The main challenge is to get the common patterns of how a snake crawls. Basically, a snake contracts sets of muscles that run along their body, pushing against the ground,” Dimaunahan told NerdRagePH. “The electric signals generated by the snake’s muscle movements have to be amplified and processed by a microcontroller in order to generate a specific set of leg movements – whether it’s crawling left, right, or going straight.”
“Theoretically, non-intrusive electrodes can be stuck onto the snakes’ body, but some snakes might still not like that. But even then, an algorithm must first be established to further understand the muscular mechanism and kinematics of rectilinear locomotion in snakes,” he added.
Interestingly enough, the gene that prompts pythons to develop legs is called “Sonic hedgehog.” According to National Geographic, this gene is still present in pythons and all it takes for them to grow limbs is for it to be reactivated.
No word from God yet as of press time on what He thinks of this latest development.