Project X - Body Armour
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Body Armour

Dr. Brian Alters takes a dive from aboard the exploration boat, The Tiburon. Once beneath the surface of the waves, he takes a close look at some of the unusual protective suits of sea creatures including lobsters, sea snails, loggerhead turtles - and sharks. And he learns how the abalone, a shellfish, may have the toughest armour of all.

Re-enacting scenes reminiscent of the movie 300 Dr. Brian Fleck and Marc Huot do their best to do damage to replicas of the suits of armour used throughout the ages. From animal hides to chain mail to armour suits and then bulletproof vests, they demonstrate how new weapons drove the need to develop new armours. (read more on Dr. Fleck's blog)

Dr. Jennifer Gardy looks at the most personal form of armour, our skin, and finds that our body's largest organ contains the key to developing a new class of antibiotics. She travels down to the swamps of Louisiana to get up close and personal with an alligator - a reptile with impressive and surprising body armour. (read more)

Did You Know?

  • Shark skin is made out of dermal denticles - the same material as teeth. It's very hard to cut, even with a surgical scalpel.
  • A loggerhead turtle's shell is actually it's ribcage and spine fused together with bony plates. The shell is infused with blood vessels and nerves so it can grow as the turtle ages.
  • The armoured suit appeared in the 15th century and was effective at spreading the force of blows from puncturing weapons like the crossbow. But its era ended with the development of gunpowder.
  • Hammering metal thinner actually changes its crystalline structure making it harder - and better as armour.
  • Not only is alligator skin tough, but it heals 5 to 10 times faster than ours. Despite sustaining massive wounds and living in a watery environment, gators rarely get infections.
  • Peptides found in human sweat are effective at killing infections. In fact, they may form the basis for a new type of antibiotics.

Further Reading

Research Vessel Tiburon, Inc.
Abalone Armor: Toughest Stuff Theoretically Possible
The Arador Armour Library
Dr. Mark A. Meyers, University of California
REW Hancock Laboratory
Alligators' 'ferocious' immune system could lead to new medicines for people