Kellar Autumn is a biologist at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. He has been studying geckos for many years. His research focuses on how animals move, which has applications in the design of climbing robots and novel adhesives. If you had a chance to ask him a question about his work, what would it be?
Submit your question to us using the form below. We'll pick some questions to send to him, and we'll post his answers here next week.
Emily Sohn, SNK's intrepid reporter, goes rock climbing.
When I heard about gecko tape, my first thought was: rock climbing. Of course, climbing is something I spend a lot of time thinking about anyway. It's one of my favorite things to do.
Emily climbs a wall at the gym.
Several times a week, all year long, I go to the climbing gym in St. Paul, Minn., about 20 minutes from where I live. When the weather's good, my friends and I head outside for the nearest mountains, cliffs, or even stone walls. It doesn't matter if it's a weekday. We'll skip out early when no one's watching. On weekends, we get up at sunrise, and we often climb until it's too dark to see.
If I plan to climb up very far off the ground, I usually tie one end of a rope onto a harness that I wear around my waist. Another person, called the belayer, puts the other end of the rope through a piece of equipment attached to his or her harness. If I fall, the rope catches me, and I will usually swing only a little bit.
With gecko tape, though, maybe I wouldn't need a rope or a belayer at all. I could run up rock walls. I could scurry across overhanging ledges. I could be the best climber in the world! I daydreamed about this for quite a while.
Then, I started having second thoughts. What I love most about climbing is the challenge of it. I enjoy working hard to find the perfect marriage of strength, balance, focus, courage, and flexibility. Each climb is like a puzzle. There are as many solutions as there are climbers. It's enormously satisfying to measure progress and notice yourself improving.
I don't think I'd want to be a gecko after all, or even wear gecko tape if there were such a thing. It would take away all the fun of finding my own way up.