back to article HOLY SEA SNAILS! Their TEETH are strong enough to build a plane

Forget the Killer Rabbit from Monty Python, limpets – a type of aquatic snail – have far more power behind their bite, say the scientists who've discovered their teeth are composed of the strongest natural material. The creatures need high strength teeth to scrape algae off rocks. But researchers from Portsmouth University …

  1. wowfood

    Goethite?

    Isn't that a pokémon?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Goethite?

      Hello fellow Pokemon Master. Yup, you're right, it's the beastie that bores you to death by reciting Goethe Poetry in the original german (not to be confused with his cousin Vogonite).

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not the strongest by far!

    Naaaa, everyone knows that the strongest material in the world is Cephaloporcanite* the incredibly strong nanofilament shield that protect the brains of our glorious country's politicians from any form of common sense and keeps their self serving agendas warm and snug.

    (* Some cynics may point that the term seems coined from the unlikely mating of the greek root for head and the latin one for pig implying our political class is pig-headed. It was in fact randomly generated by the new automated terminological generator of .gov.uk... the only useful service to-date)

    1. Bassey

      Re: Not the strongest by far!

      I beg to differ but any fule know the strongest substance known to science is dried on wheatabix.

      1. returnmyjedi

        Re: Not the strongest by far!

        The removal of said desiccated cereal is for me the most obvious and useful application for the mollusc's molars.

        1. Swarthy Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Not the strongest by far!

          Have an up-vote for "the mollusk's molars". I think we have a new (family-friendly, even) alternative to "the dog's danglies".

          1. x 7 Silver badge

            Re: Not the strongest by far!

            "dogs danglies"??

            I'm sure thats bollox

  3. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Back to nature

    With the usual caveat about BBC programmes (even BBC4 programmes) being science-lite and gimmick heavy, the recent 2 part documentary about quantum physics in biology (Jim al Khalili) was quite fascinating.

    Seems we could learn a lot from nature.

    (I was slightly taken aback that a real scientist like JaK would be mixing imperial and metric units though. Shame on him !)

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Back to nature

      Thank you for bringing that to my attention - i missed that series.

      Sadly, it's no longer available on iPlayer, but these programmes tend to be repeated.

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Back to nature

        It was in two parts, and if you feel comfortable with the big concepts of quantum mechanics, the first is optional. It describes the history more than anything - although you hear some lesser known names.

        The second was more interesting. It explained how biologists have started finding quantum effects all over nature. From memory:

        1) Robins navigation systems (detecting infinitesimal magnetism)

        2) How plant cells process sunlight so efficiently (using the fact a quantum particle is in all places at once)

        3) How enzymes work at a molecular level, using quantum tunneling

        4) How the sense of smell distinguishes between similar shaped molecules (by differentiating their quantum "signature")

        5) Was an examination into an ongoing hypothesis that evolution has been driven by quantum changes.

        All proof that what we knew 30 years ago was incomplete at best and wrong at worst.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. JimmyPage Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Back to nature

            Total upvote and respect for mentioning the awesome, and sadly missed Feynman.

            If anyone here wants some Kindling, then "What Do You Care What Other People Think" and "Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman" are great reads.

            And the story of his involvement in the Challenger disaster enquiry is well worth a watch.

        2. boltar Silver badge

          Re: Back to nature

          "4) How the sense of smell distinguishes between similar shaped molecules (by differentiating their quantum "signature")"

          You sure about that? I thought the latest research said it was the molecules vibrational pattern.

          1. JimmyPage Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Back to nature

            Well I was quoting from memory, and have the excuse of not being a particle physicist.

            If I understood the general thrust, it was that the current theory of how smell works - that it's the *shapes* of molecules which receptors recognise and report on - is incomplete. Mainly because there are several isomorphic molecules, which smell completely different. However, molecular bonds have a quantum dimension, which is unique to that molecule.

            More here.

            To be honest, the thing that impressed me the most was the technique of using isotopes in compounds to produce different quantum signatures. It seemed so ... simple.

          2. phil dude
            Boffin

            Re: Back to nature

            Smell is modulated by G-protein coupled receptors, which have an "outer" and "inner" part. The inner part is responsible for sending the signal down the control chain. The outer is the bit that becomes adapted through evolution to molecule shapes and does the recognition. We even have a receptor that allows us to smell light (get the pattern? Its called Rhodopsin)

            The problem is , as Prof. Brian Cox puts it "It's quantum all the way down". General language often has to approximate quantum.

            Mixing "shape" with quantum signature has no real meaning. Shape and charge is probably a more useful description - everything has a quantum signature.

            What's *really* interesting about smell is that Humans are so bad at it. But then when you compare us to other mammals (approx receptor density).

            Human < Dog < Cat <Rat < Mice.

            It would seem Humans don't need such good smell, probably because we walk upright. Hunters (Dog/Cat) need it to hunt.

            Mice need very good smell, because their body mass is so low that poisons would be fatal, oh , and they are food for many other species!!

            Why use dogs over cats?

            Ever tried to train a cat?

            P.

        3. phil dude
          Boffin

          Re: Back to nature

          This is not uncommon - we have a space to fill, let's make something up.

          Quantum and biology is obvious, just needed better technology to observe.

          How else could evolution work?

          P.

      2. phil dude
        Joke

        Re: Back to nature

        "Sadly, it's no longer available on iPlayer, but these programmes tend to be repeated."

        Oh look, the new BBC slogan...

        P.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Back to nature

        @ Dave 126

        Or torrented! ;-)

      4. Tempest8008

        Re: Back to nature

        I'm betting the rest of the internet probably has it somewhere for download.

        I'll take the World when it comes to "iPlayer vs The World."

      5. Pookietoo

        Re: Back to nature

        Jim Al-Khalili - Quantum Life: How Physics Can Revolutionise Biology - an hour-long Royal Institution lecture on YouTube.

    2. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: Back to nature

      If you want mixed units ......

      "Professor Asa Barber, who led the study, told The Independent: “The strength of limpet teeth is, on average, 4.9 GPa – that is like trying to break a piece of spaghetti with 3,000 bags of sugar. "

      1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Re: Back to nature

        Is the word unit short for the term universal imbecile?

    3. AbelSoul

      Re: Back to nature

      I know what you mean with regards to even Beeb-4 content becoming increasingly dubious but am usually reassured when Jim al Khalili makes an appearance and I enjoyed that show too.

  4. breakfast
    Mushroom

    Big news for the arms trade

    Coming up next: Limpet mines made from actual limpet.

    1. Colin 4

      Re: Big news for the arms trade

      made with real limpet, so you KNOW they're good!

  5. jake Silver badge

    Ummm ... limpets.

    Yummy.

  6. Tromos

    At the size of a human hair...

    ...making an F1 car is going to leave an awfully large number of toothless limpets.

    1. Denarius Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: At the size of a human hair...

      cant resist: And mumbling "Fangs for the memories"

      Will TopGear also get their teeth in this ? My coats the one with the shellfish smell

    2. boltar Silver badge

      Re: At the size of a human hair...

      "...making an F1 car is going to leave an awfully large number of toothless limpets."

      I'd love to know why F1 is always put forward as the pinnacle of engineering technology. It really isn't. Its not that hard to make a light car with a turbo engine that puts out stupid HP but only has to last 200 miles before a complete rebuild, and the idiotic rules make it even more hamstrung.

      A real achievement for F1 would be to make the races actually worth watching anymore.

      1. Someonehasusedthathandle

        Re: At the size of a human hair...

        Because nothing else is based around the idea of building a light car with a turbo engine that runs at 15k rpm minimum.

        And a energy recovery system on both the brakes and the turbo that generates 180hp.

        And can withstand 190miles (Silverstone) continuously.

        And roughly 800miles (rounded down - 4 races per engine) overall before something can be replaced.

        And the g's of braking from 200mph multiple times a lap for 52 laps (Silverstone again).

        And has to fit into a very small space.

        (enough?)

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          Re: At the size of a human hair...

          "Because nothing else is based around the idea of building a light car with a turbo engine that runs at 15k rpm minimum.

          And a energy recovery system on both the brakes and the turbo that generates 180hp.

          And can withstand 190miles (Silverstone) continuously.

          And roughly 800miles (rounded down - 4 races per engine) overall before something can be replaced.

          And the g's of braking from 200mph multiple times a lap for 52 laps (Silverstone again).

          And has to fit into a very small space.

          (enough?)

          You forgot. A cockpit/seat that can allow the drive to survive a 200mph crash without an airbag.

        2. boltar Silver badge

          Re: At the size of a human hair...

          "Because nothing else is based around the idea of building a light car with a turbo engine that runs at 15k rpm minimum."

          The american indy and champ car series get pretty close so its hardly unique.

          "And can withstand 190miles (Silverstone) continuously."

          Wow , a whole 190 miles. Incredible. Thats only 1/1000th the distance a good road car engine can manage but hey, yeah , I'm impressed!

          Rest of blah blah snipped

          "(enough?)"

          Not even close. Rally cars take far more punishment plus the the racing is actually exciting unlike the tedious procession of F1.

          1. qwertyuiop
            Trollface

            Re: At the size of a human hair...

            You're right, it's so exciting watching individual cars leaving at well spaced intervals so that they're effectively "racing" all on their own. I particularly enjoy watching the high-speed overtaking. Oh...

          2. Someonehasusedthathandle

            Re: At the size of a human hair...

            Apples and oranges. Racehorse to any other. Mo to Bolt.

            Okay, on topic. The point is F1 is considered a pinnacle of engineering because every part is custom designed to save 10th's of a second. To save grams. The good filters down to our life. The rubbish is reworked. Regardless of personal opinion the top engineers flock to true challenges, F1 has top engineers. Go look up Adrian Newey. Bask in his bald greatness.

  7. Tom 7 Silver badge

    If some evil scientist can extract the tooth making bits

    and engineer them to make a continuous thread what are you going to make the weaving machine out of?

    1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      Re: If some evil scientist can extract the tooth making bits

      > what are you going to make the weaving machine out of?

      Something the thickness of Desperate Dan hair (that has the strength of 3000 bags of beanos.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Desperate Dan hair (that has the strength of 3000 bags of beanos.)

        Stop mixing units: Desperate Dan was not in the Beano! (but the Dandy)

        (... and I thought mixing SI and Imperial was bad enough ...)

        1. Shades

          Re: Desperate Dan hair (that has the strength of 3000 bags of beanos.)

          "Stop mixing units: Desperate Dan was not in the Beano! (but the Dandy)"

          I think that was the point? Sounds like I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects was a Dandy person rather than Beano. Personally I preferred the Beano.

  8. Measurer
    Pint

    'Drawing on nature for effective designs is apparently known as "bioinspiration".'

    The number of good ideas I've had whilst in the pub leads me to coin the term "beerinspiration"!

  9. lawndart

    Says:

    They may have the teeth to make an aeroplane, but clearly they don't have the ambition.

  10. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Coat

    subliminal text ...

    Why did I think I saw something about "crumpet mines" ?

  11. John H Woods Silver badge

    Space Elevator potential?

    Come on, we're nearly there ...

    ... (IS2R Kevlar would be strong enough to build one on Mars, but not quite good enough for Earth).

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Boffin

    The figure from the paper is 3-6.5 GPa of tensile strength.

    Which I think is getting closer to "space elevator" grade materials.

  13. TonyK

    You do have proofreaders,right?

    Obviously the teeth in the picture can't be both "100 times thinner than the diameter of a human hair" and "just less than a millimetre long". How on earth did that slip past the proofreaders? That "100 times thinner" figure refers to the prepared samples that the scientists put in their strengthometer. You can see a picture at http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-31500883.

    Also I suspect that it's the cross-sectional area that is 100 times less than a human hair, not the diameter.

  14. promytius2015

    ...so the first thing they think of is...

    ...a racing car...

    ...these boffins; anyone know where it is that they grow them?

  15. x 7 Silver badge

    not news......

    I hate to decry peoples efforts, but I don't believe this is "new" news. I can remember reading 40+ years ago that limpet teeth were supposed to be harder/stronger than diamond. Can't remember where though - New Scientist maybe???

    But when you get down to it, it should hardly be a surprise for an animal that crunches rock, both to access food, and to create a better low-tide anchorage site to prevent drying out. They chew the rock to better match the profile of the shell, creating a tighter fit

  16. Martin Budden
    Unhappy

    Why is El Reg dumbing down the sciencey bit?

    I read this story in a "normal" newspaper and it was a great article which actually explained why limpet teeth are so strong and why they stay strong even at larger sizes (it's to do with thinner fibres being less susceptible to flaws, knowledge which has obvious potential benefits in carbon fibre manufacture).

    But the El Reg article has completely skipped all the detailed sciencey stuff and instead aimed the article at disinterested numptys. Why? Does Kat Hall not realise that we come here for fun FACTS???

  17. ScottAS2
    Alien

    The big question

    Are these strong enough to make a space elevator cable out of?

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