Book Review

Review: “How to Walk on Water and Climb Up Walls”

“An eight-year-old girl kicked her feet back and forth on the seat of a Long Island Railroad train. I beckoned her to cover over and pointed to the top of my winter jacket, which I slowly unzipped. Inside, nestling against me for warmth, were ten snakes, their forked tongues waving back and forth. The child shrieked and ran back over to her mother, who was napping. ‘That man has a coat full of snakes,’ she shouted.”

So begins Chapter 2 of Dr. David Hu’s new book, How to Walk on Water and Climb Up Walls (*), a captivating and funny journey through animal locomotion and biorobotics. Don’t let that fool you, though; this book has plenty of fluid dynamics to it. Long-time FYFD readers will recognize some of the topics, such as the fluid-like behavior of fire ants, how eyelashes keep our eyes clean and moist, and why swimming behind an obstacle is so easy even a dead fish (like the one shown above) can do it.

There are plenty of exciting, new stories as well, like how sandfish – a type of lizard – can swim under sand and why a lamprey’s nervous system may lead to better robots. The explanation of how cockroaches are virtually unsquishable and able to squeeze themselves into crevices a quarter of their height absolutely floored me. 

Hu’s book offers a front-row seat to research at the cutting edge of biology, engineering, and physics, with anecdotes, explanations, and applications that will stick with you long after you put the book down. If you’re looking for a holiday gift for yourself or another science-lover, check this one out for certain (*).

*Disclosures: I purchased my copy of this book using my own funds, and this review is not sponsored in any way. This post contains affiliate links – marked with (*); if you click on one of these links and purchase something, FYFD may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

(Image credits: book – Princeton University Press; fish – D. Beal et al.; ants – Vox/Georgia Tech; eyelashes –  G. Diaz Fornaro; shark denticles – J. Oeffner and G. Lauder)

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