It's time to go again to the A Moment of Science Mailbag. A listener writes:
Dear A Moment of Science,
Unfortunately, I have a bit of a roach problem. The little buggers have infested my house. One thing that amazes me, though, and that I can't help but admire, is how sneaky roaches are. Whenever I flick on the light and discover one or a bunch, they scurry away so quickly that I can never catch them. How do cockroaches do this? Signed: Buggin' Out
Great question, Buggin'! Roaches are undoubtedly creepy, but they're also pretty amazing creatures. For example, did you know that when cockroaches run at full speed, they rear up on their hind legs like human sprinters?
I had no idea. What I do know, and what's equally amazing, is that when roaches are surprised, they can bolt away at up to fifty body lengths per second. Scale that up to human size at they're moving at the equivalent of hundreds of miles per hour. So it's no wonder that roaches are so hard to capture.
What's even more impressive is that roaches are not only speedy but have ninja‑like powers of stealthiness. Using high speed cameras, researchers at UC Berkeley discovered that roaches can run full speed toward a ledge, dive off, then grab the edge with their claws and swing underneath, out of sight. Some lizards‑‑geckos, for example‑‑use a similar escape technique.
Wow. That's pretty cool. Roaches are still kind of freaky when they show up in your bathroom, but you've gotta respect their resourcefulness.