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Biological Designs Worth Imitating

If these designs are so good that intelligent minds want to mimic them, who can believe they emerged by chance?

Finding More Gifts in the Cellular Stocking

Improving techniques are allowing biochemists to find surprising new things in cells. Here are some recent examples.

What's New in Biomimetics?

It's hard to keep up with the numerous advancements in science coming from inspiration provided by natural design.

Animals Come Pre-Equipped With Machinery

Guidance systems, compasses, switchboards, motors, robotic machines: we're talking about systems inside animals—and you.

Plants Are Clever

They may be stuck in the ground, but plants know how to get what they need. How do creation and evolution explain this?

Cell Biologists Use Machine Language

This is a golden age of discovery about molecular machines, but the metaphor may be moving from machinery to information processing.

Body Wonders at the Cellular Level

If we kept track of all the nano-scopic processes that keep us alive, we would be giga-astonished.

Cell's Molecular Machines Arouse Fascination

With increasing image quality at their disposal, biologists are finding amazing molecular machines at work in living cells.

Entrepreneurs Find Gold in Nature

Inspiration for invention comes from everywhere in nature's engineering. At every level, there are designs worth imitating.

Virus Motors Show Mechanical Design

A virus efficiently packs its DNA into its capsule with a powerful molecular motor working against repulsive forces.

Even the Plants Have Eyes

How do plants steer toward the light? They have eyes the size of molecules.

Three More Ways to Benefit from Nature's Designs

Three completely different biological mechanisms, at different scales of size, studied by different universities: all agree nature's designs are wonderful, but difficult to imitate.

Your Cells Work for You

At a cellular level, the human body has a dizzying array of workers. Here are a few recent examples discovered.

Quantum Secret of Photosynthesis Revealed

The magic of light capture by plants is so small and fast, its secrets are only now being understood.

Make Like a Dog, Owl, or Beetle: How Biomimetics Will Improve Our Lives

The greatest breakthroughs in health and engineering may be as near as the back yard: 13 more stimulating stories from biomimetics.

Proteins Conduct Electricity

A remarkable finding at the single-molecule level shows a protein can conduct a large amount of electricity.

Animal Models for Technology

Animals and microbes continue to inspire technologies that could provide better health and security.

Venter: Life Is Robotic Software

What is life? It's software that runs biological robots, says a leading geneticist.

Innovation as a Dodge

This is not a truck commercial. It’s not about a Dodge as an innovation, but innovation as a dodge. It’s about how a word, innovation, is used as a euphemism in evolution articles. The word seems to mean, “we have no clue how this evolved, but it must have for evolution to be true.” It’s a handy rhetorical trick, because without it, a reader might be tempted to think the evidence supports creation. Some recent articles show how the trick is employed.

Selling Darwinism as a Cinch

The origin of biological complexity is a major concern for believers in unguided, random processes of nature. Some recent news articles, though, make it sound easy – no problem at all. But do their theories and experiments reflect the real world?

Your Copper Pipes

Each of us is part metal. Our bodies contain iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, vanadium, molybdenum, selenium, and even nickel like the coins in our pockets or purses. Unlike the other common elements of life (carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, calcium, nitrogen, phosphorus), our metals are not synthesized and recycled, but must be imported and handled with care. Copper is a good example of a biological metal that performs multiple useful functions – that is, unless something goes wrong with the machinery handling it.

Your Motor/Generators Are 100% Efficient

ATP synthase astounds again. The molecular machine that generates almost all the ATP (molecular “energy pellets”) for all life was examined by Japanese scientists for its thermodynamic efficiency. By applying and measuring load on the top part that synthesizes ATP, they were able to determine that one cannot do better at getting work out of a motor – a motor that is also a generator.

Mighty Mitochondria Conduct Energy Exquisitely

None of us could live without mitochondria. These are the power centers ubiquitous in eukaryotic cells. They contain molecular machines in factories whose jobs are to generate and conduct electrical currents. The currents run turbines that packetize the energy in molecules of ATP, which are then used by most processes in the cell. New discoveries continue to fascinate scientists with how mitochondria work. Some scientists use their energy to find ways Darwinian evolution could build the machinery of life.

Your Rotary Engines Are Arranged in Factories

As if ATP synthase was not amazing enough, a team of scientists in Germany now tells us they are arranged in rows with other equipment to optimize performance. From electron micrographs of intact mitochondria, they were able to detect the rotary engines of ATP synthase and other parts of the respiratory chain. Their diagram in an open-source paper in PNAS looks for all the world like a factory.

Cell Chaperones Keep Proteins Properly Folded

Imagine linking together a chain of 300 plastic shapes, some with magnets at various places. Then let it go and see if you could get it to fold spontaneously into a teapot. This is the challenge that cells face every minute: folding long chains of amino acids (polypeptides) into molecular machines and structures for the cell’s numerous tasks required for life. DNA in the nucleus codes for these polypeptides. They are assembled in ribosomes in single-file order. How do they end up in complex folded shapes? Some polypeptides will spontaneously collapse into their native folds, like the magnetic chain in our analogy. Others, however, need help. Fortunately, the cell provides an army of assistants, called chaperones, to monitor, coax, and repair unfolded proteins, to achieve “proteostasis” – a stable, working set of proteins. That army is so well-organized and complex, scientists continue to try to figure out how it performs so well in the field.