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Robotic Turtle Proves Graceful

Madeline the robot turtle cruises in the pool. (Image credit: John Long)

Madeline the robot turtle is helping university researchers learn how to build better autonomous underwater vehicles. Madeline's flippers are made of polyurethane, but have about the same stiffness as those of a real turtle; electric motors guided by an onboard computer provide power.

The basic approach is summed up by John Long, one of Madeleine's makers from Vassar College, in New York. "The thinking is that if nature did it, it must be good," he explains.

The turbot was equipped to run hundreds of on-the-spot analyses. But it had only enough space for twenty permanent samples to be carried back home. The first sample had been nibbled from the surface slush. Now it twisted, and gulped down five drams of sea fluid in all its glorious impurity. (Read more about Mitsubishi turbot robofish)

Bill Christensen catalogues the inventions, technology and ideas of science fiction writers at his website, Technovelgy. He is a contributor to Live Science.