Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

A View from David Appell

Venus Flytraps

Venus flytraps are just plain cool – Darwin called the plant “one of the most wonderful in the world.” But how do they snap shut so quickly? Scientists have mostly answered the question in a report in this week’s issue…

  • January 28, 2005

Venus flytraps are just plain cool – Darwin called the plant “one of the most wonderful in the world.” But how do they snap shut so quickly? Scientists have mostly answered the question in a report in this week’s issue of Nature (reported here in the Boston Globe).

In a nice multidisciplinary collaboration, led by Harvard mathematician Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan, found that “the plant’s secret lies in the elasticity and curvature of its leaf, which is somewhat analogous to a soft contact lens. When a contact lens is pushed, it first holds steady, and then dramatically flips around.”

There’s still a bit of a mystery about the exact mechanism the flytrap uses to change the pressures within the leaf – it’s probably water pressure. It’s fun when science and technology answer the mundane question on the way to tackling the hard ones.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.