Scaling buildings like Spiderman could be a reality, scientists claim

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Sticky gloves and shoes are being developed using a material that allows the wearing to stick and climb up walls.

They have already created a new textile inspired by geckos which has been tested successfully on a small robot that can scale smooth surfaces such as glass and metal.

Engineers now want to “scale up” the design for humans as part of a project that has been codenamed Z-Man.

Geckos’ ability to defy gravity is due to microscopic hairs on their toes, increasing the surface area, which creates a “one-way adhesive”. A sticky bond is created with each step but that bond can be broken by movement in the other direction.

Technicians have struggled over the last 10 years to create an artificial version strong enough for a vertical climb to be attempted successfully. However, researchers at Stanford University, California, have created a rubber-like material covered with thousands of tiny polymer fibres to imitate the gecko’s hairs. These hairs, which are called setae, are ten times thinner than a human hair.

The material is said to be strong and reusable, and leaves no residue or damage. It has been tested on a “robotic gecko” called Stickybot which can walk up panes of glass.

Scientists are now on the way to making a version of the material that “would allow humans to climb with gecko adhesive.”

This would allow someone to hang and support their whole weight using the material.

Professor Mark Cutkosky, the lead designer, said, “Unless you use suction cups, which are kind of slow and inefficient, the other solution out there is to use dry adhesion, which is the technique the gecko uses.”

The secret lies in the gecko’s “one-way adhesive” which makes them very sticky when they touch a surface in one direction – but then come free when pulled back in another.

“It’s very different from Scotch tape or duct tape, where, if you press it on, you then have to peel it off,” explained Professor Cutkosky, an expert in “bio-inspired robotics”.

He added: “Other adhesives are like walking around with chewing gum on your feet: You have to press it into the surface and then you have to work to pull it off. But with directional adhesion, it’s almost like you can sort of hook and unhook yourself from the surface.”

The Stickybot is shaped like a gecko with four feet, each about the size of a child’s hand. As it steadily moves up the wall, the robot peels and then sticks its feet to the surface with ease, just like a real gecko.

Stanford University said efforts to make the material strong enough for humans was “in the works.”

The development of the robots, which use adhesive toes and an agile tail to scale walls, just like a gecko, is funded by the US Department of Defense’s advanced research projects programme.

Rare vintage racing Bugatti could fetch world record price

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A Bugatti Type 51 race car in the 2007 ‘Grand Prix de l’?ge d’Or’ in the pitlane of Dijon-Prenois Photo: Akela NDE

The 79-year-old Type 51, which contested 17 European Grand Prix races, is considered one of the finest surviving of its kind, boasting its original bodywork, engine and gearbox.

It is set fetch $4.5m (£2.9m) in the sale at the Pebble Beach motoring week in Monterey this Saturday. That would be the highest price ever paid for a grand prix racing Bugatti.

It is being sold by the British private collector who paid the current world record sum for a Type 35 Bugatti two years ago, at £2.5m.

Along with other alternative investments, the collector car market has been boosted over the past year and a half as the wealthy move towards more tangible assets in the wake of the credit crunch.

Bugatti historian David Sewell said the latest sale, 1931-built chassis 51132, is “a remarkably complete and original car and there is no doubt to its authenticity.”

He said it “ranks among the finest survivors of the highly desirable Bugatti Type 51 Grand Prix”.

The last time a Bugatti Type 51 came to auction, nearly ten years ago in 2001 it made in excess of £1m.

Dan Warrener, car specialist at RM Auctions, which is holding the sale, said: “Many of our clientele have been disgruntled with the anxiety caused by the wild fluctuations in the world stock markets, and while the past two years have demonstrated that ‘blue chip’ stocks can be reduced to zero, serious depreciation in rare car values has never happened.

“Rare collector cars, like fine art, have increased in value dramatically in the past decade. Many price records have been broken in the past two years, while more traditional investments have gone down.”

World Cup 2010: Paul the psychic octopus ‘could transfer to Spain’ after bidding war

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Red letter day: fans in down town Madrid celebrate.Photo: REUTERS

Madrid zoo announced a transfer bid for the oracle octopus, which became a worldwide sensation after correctly predicted the outcome of as many World Cup matches as he has legs.

The invertebrate is due to retire after predicating all of Germany’s World Cup. He finished his career by calling Spain’s final 1-0 win over Holland in the final at the weekend.

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The one blemish on its record was when he wrongly predicted Germany would beat Spain in the Euro 2008 final.

In what may prove to be this year’s biggest transfer story, negotiations have began for the world’s most famous cephalopod to head to Spain, still giddy from its win.

Officials from Zoo Aquarium in Madrid told Paul’s aquarium in Germany it would trump all others and give him a warm welcome in gratitude for predicting Spain’s World Cup win.

They believe the eight legged creature, named after a German children’s book by Boy Lornsen, will attract thousands of visitors and become a star attraction.

Madrid zoo contacted the Sea Life aquarium in Oberhausen “to ask them to transfer the animal” while making, what they said, was an offer to the Germans they could not refuse.

Officials promised to “improve on any offer received so far”. It said the bid to came in response to “dozens of petitions from all over Spain”.

They have offered an unspecified amount of cash and have also attempted to negotiate through an animal exchange programme.

“The zoo also guarantees that Paul will receive the best attention, reflecting the great affection in which he is held by all the Spanish people since he predicted that the Spanish team would win the football World Cup,” said Zoo spokeswoman Amparo Fernandez.

“We hope that within the next few days we will be able to confirm news that the admirable Paul will be part of the club of the most loved and charismatic animals of the Madrid Zoo.”

But a spokeswoman for Paul said he was not for sale.

“We are not in contact with Madrid Zoo. And we know nothing about swapping Paul for another animal or him going to Madrid Zoo for a transfer sum,” Sea Life spokeswoman Tanja Munzig said.

In octopus terms, Paul is already a pensioner, at the grand old age of two-and-a-half. Octopuses generally live three years at most.

Paul is so popular in Spain that a northwestern Spanish town tried to borrow him.

Officials in O Caraballino, population 14,000, also declared the octopus an honorary citizen.

It mayor is due to travel to Oberhausen next week to present him with a commemorative plaque and sculpture while Paul has also been presented with a miniature World Cup trophy.

He had also become at the centre of an international bidding war, after Spanish businessmen offered 38,000 euros to bring him to Spain.

Andres Iniesta, who scored the goal which won the World Cup final for Spain, said after the game: “As for the octopus, what can I say? We won. The octopus will be very popular in Spain”.

Octopus is a delicacy in restaurants throughout Spain, but Mrs Fernandez insisted there was no way Paul would end up being served up on a restaurant plate if he is moved to the Madrid Zoo.

The art of match predicting became a dangerous job for the clairvoyant cephalopod with bitter fans sending death-threat emails to his German aquarium, saying “we want Paul for the pan”.

Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish Prime Minister, even jokingly suggested sending in a squad of octopus bodyguards.

Some people, however, won up to half a million pounds between them during the tournament by placing bets based on the octopus’s predictions.

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