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Science Technology

Octopuses Show Scientists How To Hide Machines in Plain Sight ( 63

If you want to learn the art of camouflage look no further than octopuses. Just watch this famous video that shows a diver slowly swimming up to a clump of rock and seaweed, only for part of that clump to turn white, open its eye, and jet away, squirting ink behind it. Materials scientists and engineers have fallen under the octopuses' spell. From a report: Scientists have engineered a material that can transform from a 2D sheet to a 3D shape, adjusting its texture to blend in with its surroundings, per a new study published today in Science. They mimicked the abilities of an octopus, which can change both shape and color to camouflage. This is a first step toward developing soft robots that can hide in plain sight, robotics expert Cecilia Laschi writes of the research. Robots that can camouflage may one day be used in natural environments to study animals more closely than ever before or in military operations to avoid detection, she writes.
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Octopuses Show Scientists How To Hide Machines in Plain Sight

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  • by h33t l4x0r ( 4107715 ) on Friday October 13, 2017 @06:07AM (#55361127)
  • by tinkerton ( 199273 ) on Friday October 13, 2017 @06:14AM (#55361141)

    It's always the military applications because that's where the money is. What was it again for US? 700 bn + 130 bn or so for ongoing wars. With a bunch of obfuscated and indirect costs on top.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 13, 2017 @07:06AM (#55361241)

      Yep, "defense" spending. Boggles the mind that a significant portion of Americans accepts military spending, but balks about providing healthcare to all its citizens. You put that in perspective, if the $700 billion figure is correct, as today it has been reported that Trump is saving $7 billion (1% of the military budget) by cutting healthcare subsidies which affects millions of lower income Americans. Of course, it probably ends up costing more in lost productivity for people who are ill and can not afford medical services.

      • by Gilgaron ( 575091 ) on Friday October 13, 2017 @11:46AM (#55362617)
        For better or for worse, the best jobs some of his supporters are likely able to get would be found by joining the military. It has become a right-friendly make-work program.
    • It's not really about the 'money'. It's about politics.

      The GOP has developed a myth that somehow military technology spending works, while civilian does not. This despite the fact that military is FAMOUS for horrendously overspending on stupid crap that doesn't work.

      For this reason they refuse to spend money on non-military technology.

      The scientist counter this by re-framing all grant request as military in nature. US government funded medical research is huge - but only because they convinced the milit

      • This despite the fact that military is FAMOUS for horrendously overspending on stupid crap that doesn't work.

        Most of the horrendous overspending is just fake accounting to cover the black budgets.

      • I can more or less agree. Just present your research as having military relevance. But I don't think it's harmless. I'll put it another way: after a while everyone decide they benefit from plugging into the military industrial complex which then helps it grow and increases the concentration of power. And such power concentratoin is a bad thing and we shouldn't do bad things now should we.

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      Just cover your vehicle in LED lights and smartphone CCD's [] []

  • Camouflage (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Obfiscator ( 150451 ) on Friday October 13, 2017 @06:14AM (#55361147)

    Anyone else notice how the octopus in the video was the only part of the clump of seaweed not swaying in the current? Guess they have to work on imitating that next.

    • by Xest ( 935314 )

      As a diver, and underwater photographer, this sort of thing is exactly what I've started to notice over the years. When I started diving you'd go down with a guide and they'd drag you round at their pace, and the pace of a bunch of other people in the group and you'd see these amazing reefs and amazing creatures, it was an absolute revelation about the amazing things that exist in our world.

      But it was nothing compared to when I first went out by myself, and slowed right down to take my time to find smaller

      • I've always had kind of the reverse experience. Diving by myself I don't notice much, but whenever I go with someone else we always find crazy stuff. I remember once with my old dive instructor he motioned everyone to a stop, then slowly started creeping along the bottom on his fingers. We all thought he was just showing off how good he was at controlling his buoyancy, but then he suddenly dug his fingers into the sand and scooped out an armload of stingray. He held it for a few seconds, then let it jet off
        • by Xest ( 935314 )

          I know where you're coming from - I think that's probably precisely though because your instructor has had the time to properly scour the reef and learn what to look for, I didn't mean to suggest it's automatic, more that it's a skill and one you learn by taking your time, and that it's one that creates a completely different experience for you.

          Part of the challenge is that it's not that instructors aren't seeing these things as they go by, they probably are, but that they don't see merit in stopping for th

  • One would think they prefer to be known collectively as octopi.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      They prefer to be know collectively as "Hydra" but it never caught on.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      One would think they prefer to be known collectively as octopi.

      WRONG []


      The standard plural in English of octopus is octopuses. However, the word octopus comes from Greek and the Greek plural form octopodes is still occasionally used. The plural form octopi, formed according to rules for some Latin plurals, is incorrect

    • by GrumpySteen ( 1250194 ) on Friday October 13, 2017 @07:14AM (#55361257)

      One would think a pedant would be aware that the word octopus originates from Greek and wouldn't use Latin pluralization rules on it. []

      But who am I kidding? Pedants are rarely aware of anything other than their desire to make themselves feel smart by correcting others, even when they're wrong to do so.

      • Actually, pendants mostly like to hang around doing nothing all day. Pedants hate that they can't fix their mistakes in Slashdot comment threads. Other folks have more esoteric tastes, like trying to trick people into checking their spelling for no good reason.

    • Grammar Nazi fail.

  • Look at the opening 8 seconds carefully. Look at the texture, how there are bumps that match the 'algae' (seaweed) leaves. Suddenly those leaves 'melt' down to form the smooth body of the octopus ... uh, no. The octopus changes color but it does not magically alter its skin texture to produce bumps, etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Uh-oh. Yes octopuses can change their skin texture using muscles under the skin.

    • Just think of it as frowning.

    • They absolutely 100% DO change their skin texture. I've seen it myself. And I have no doubt there's thousands of snorkelers and divers who can back me up on this.

      • by Xest ( 935314 )

        I can go one better and provide a couple of images that illustrate exactly this behaviour that I took personally. I have photographed a lot of octopuses, and whilst these aren't the best shots, they were taken literally seconds apart and highlight the rapid change. [] []

        As you can see (and as the video shows) they typically use more texture when they're hiding to obscure their shape, then they smooth themselves out to reduce drag in the water when they want to flee.

    • by Xest ( 935314 )

      Take it from a diver who has photographed many octopus over the years, yes they absolutely do change their skin texture and not simply their colour.

    • dam u dum

  • by coofercat ( 719737 ) on Friday October 13, 2017 @08:35AM (#55361503) Homepage Journal

    I had some of this material somewhere... now where did I put it?

    (thank you, I'm here all week)

  • "Isn't it astonishing, Smedley, how much that fully-functioning surveillance drone resembles a set of tiles in the ladies change room at the university gym!"

    "You have my word, sir, no terrorist shall pass through that venue unobserved!"

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday October 13, 2017 @09:59AM (#55361841)

    But it's a dead giveaway when they squirt ink at you.

  • I am surprised they were not studying chameleons because Dr. Who's TARDIS used a chameleon circuit.
  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday October 13, 2017 @11:26AM (#55362479)

    ... and running away. Are you sure this wasn't the Washington Post?

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger VS a Giant Octopus!

Can anyone remember when the times were not hard, and money not scarce?