This Madagascar hissing cockroach carries a “backpack.” The pack has electronics and a solar cell. Those allow researchers to control how it moves. (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

This Madagascar hissing cockroach carries a “backpack.” The pack has electronics and a solar cell. Those allow researchers to control how it moves. (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Researcher Yujiro Kakei connects a solar cell to the electronics “backpack” on a cockroach. The lab that makes the packs is the Thin-Film Device Laboratory in Wako, Japan. (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Researcher Yujiro Kakei connects a solar cell to the electronics “backpack” on a cockroach. The lab that makes the packs is the Thin-Film Device Laboratory in Wako, Japan. (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Emma Mollard holds a Madagascar hissing cockroach at a museum in Washington, D.C.  This type of bug is a large, wingless cockroach from Madagascar. That’s an island off the coast of Africa. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Emma Mollard holds a Madagascar hissing cockroach at a museum in Washington, D.C. This type of bug is a large, wingless cockroach from Madagascar. That’s an island off the coast of Africa. (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Firefighters work at a collapsed building after an earthquake in eastern Taiwan. Will cockroaches one day help rescue people from rubble? (Hualien City Government via AP)

Firefighters work at a collapsed building after an earthquake in eastern Taiwan. Will cockroaches one day help rescue people from rubble? (Hualien City Government via AP)

Roaches to the Rescue

Posted: November 1, 2022

BAM. An earthquake rocks the ground. People trapped under rubble need help. Who comes to the rescue?

COCKROACHES!

These aren’t just any cockroaches. They’re cyborgs: part living thing and part machine.

Japanese researchers found a way to put electronic “backpacks” on cockroaches. They can now direct the cockroaches’ movement using remote controls!

The backpacks attach to a film on the bugs’ abdomens. The film measures just four microns thick. (Look at a strand of your hair really closely. Imagine slicing that hair lengthwise into 25 equal strips. Just one of these is about the size of the film.)

The backpack (powered by sunlight) sends signals into the bug’s hindquarters. It tells the bug, “Go this way!”

Roaches may be able to do better rescue work than robots. Their batteries won’t run out, so they have more time to explore. They use their own energy to move, so they need less power. No surprise there. We borrow all our invention ideas from the great designer—God. We can follow His design to do good work in the world. His designs will always be smoother than ours.

Soon scientists will try to shrink the “backpacks” so the bugs can move more easily. Eventually, they’ll mount sensors and cameras onto the bugs too.

Scientists chose Madagascar hissing cockroaches for their “backpack” experiments. These roaches are big enough to carry the equipment. They don’t have wings that would get in the way. The bugs can get over small obstacles. They can tip themselves back up when flipped over.

The roaches aren’t quite ready for work yet. Watch: A wireless Bluetooth signal tells the cyborg roach to turn left. It scrambles to the left. The signal tells it to go right. The bug turns in circles.

At the end of the day, scientists remove the backpacks. The roaches scamper back to their regular, roachey life in a terrarium.

Why? All our inventions borrow from the great designer—God. We can follow His designs to do good work in the world.