December 15, 2006 | David F. Coppedge

Animal Plan IT

Imitating animal technology is one of the hottest areas in science.  The engineering and information technology (IT) observable in living things continues to astonish scientists and makes engineers want to imitate nature’s designs.  Biomimetics is leading to productive, useful discoveries helping solve human problems and leading to a better life for all.  Here are some recent examples of how scientists are working to reverse-engineer technical feats on the Animal Plan Net:

  1. Underwater jet propulsion lab  Squid know how to maneuver in ways that are the envy of submarine operators.  That’s why researchers at U of Colorado are trying to imitate the “vortex ring” method of propulsion, according to Live Science.  “Vortex rings are formed when a burst of fluid shoots out of an opening, moving in one direction and spreading out as it curls back.”  If mastered, this technology might not only help underwater exploration subs, but permit the designing of microscopic craft that “guide tiny capsules with jet thrusters through the human digestive tract, enabling [doctors] to diagnose disease and dispense medications, the researchers said.”
  2. Skin so shiny:  The octopus and its relatives, cuttlefish and squid, have an unusual skin that is perfect for camouflage, reports News@Nature.  A group at Woods Hole, Massachusetts found a protein with “remarkable properties” that is responsible: it reflects light almost perfectly.  Roger Hanlon found that the bottom layer of octopus skin is made up of cells called leucophores “composed of a translucent, colourless, reflecting protein” that has such perfect broadband reflection, “they reflect all wavelengths of light that hit at any angle.”
        Cuttlefish have an additional trick.  Their leucophores are covered by flat platelets called iridophores that enhance “the brightness of the whiteness,” Hanlon said, adding, “These are very complex 3-D cells.”  The protein involved is appropriately named reflectin.
        Reporter Katherine Sanderson explained how this knowledge can help humans.  “The molecules that make octopus skin so successful as a dynamic camouflage could provide materials scientists with a new way to make super-reflective materials.”  Such knowledge would be of interest to law enforcement and the military.  Not only would this protect those working at night; some day, a Halloween costume made of cuttlefish skin could look pretty scary.
  3. Too cool watercraft  Jet skis are going to seem like kid stuff when “Dolphin watercraft” become popular.  Look at the picture on CNet News.  The high-performance, submersible Dolphin can leap above the waves and do barrel rolls, just like a dolphin.  Are these for real?  Believe it or not; Innespace Productions has a website and picture gallery.
        The boats really do look like dolphins and come in one-person and two-person versions.  Designers Dan Innes and Rob Piazza explain the principle: “These positively buoyant vessels use their forward momentum and the downward lift of their wings to literally fly below the water’s surface.  This radical departure from the typical method of sinking below the surface allows the Dolphins to achieve an unparalleled level of freestyle performance.”
        As a result of their mimicry wizardry, their “fully functional show ready watercraft” is able to “perform sustained dives, huge jumps, barrel rolls, and many other amazing acrobatic tricks.”  After their upcoming 2007 Dolphin demonstration tour, everybody will want one.  Will this be the next competitive sport?  Maybe someday Sea World will have live dolphins and their trainers in Dolphin watercraft competing side by side for audience applause.  (If the inventors can get theirs to eat fish and reproduce, then they’ll really be onto something.)
  4. Bug in a fix:  Microbes may not be animals per se, but they also have technical secrets to teach us big animals.  A deep-sea microbe at a scorching hot vent figured out how to fix nitrogen at a record temperature, 92°C, reported Science Daily and News@Nature.  Though both articles speculated on how this new form of nitrogen fixation might have evolved, the feat has chemists interested in learning “to better mimic the process for industrial use.”  Current artificial methods of fixing nitrogen to produce fertilizer are costly and inefficient compared to the way microbes do it.  News@Nature quoted a French scientist saying, “Given the importance of nitrogen fixation in global agriculture and the creative exploitation of novel organisms by the biotechnology industry, a heat-stable nitrogenase is likely to find a useful industrial application.”
  5. Robo-flagellum:  Live Science reported that somebody is already trying to mimic the bacterial flagellum.  An Australian inventor has achieved higher rpm with less twisting force by imitating the way bacteria swim.  Some day, his tiny inventions may be able to swim through your blood vessels, hopefully for beneficial ends: “Ultimately, tiny microrobots would give surgeons the ability to avoid traumatic and risky procedures in some cases,” Bill Christensen reported.  “A remotely-controlled microrobot would extend a physician’s ability to diagnose and treat patients in a minimally invasive way.”  Imagine surgery without scalpels and anesthesia.  Could we see a day where you get surgery at an outpatient clinic, and watch a microbot in real time on a monitor screen as it swims on command inside you to the problem area with a load of medicine?  It tickles just thinking about it.

Question: would a lab technician be able to tell which entity running under flagellum power in a human bloodstream was intelligently designed, and which one evolved by chance over millions of years?

If so, fire him for incompetence.  Even a real dolphin could tell that a high-performance watercraft had to be intelligently designed.  Don’t even ask the inventors unless you want to get slugged.  The Dolphin boat didn’t just “emerge” by chance in their machine shop.  They made it on porpoise.
    There’s a revolution going on that is positive, exciting, stimulating, promising, and beneficial to all: the imitation of nature’s designs.  The projects listed above have no use for evolutionary theory.  They were stimulated by good old-fashioned curiosity and careful observation.  It’s time for the Darwinists to step aside with their useless speculations and distasteful arrogance, and let science get back to its roots: understanding how things work and using them for the benefit of mankind.  The researchers and inventors mentioned above are not going to work better or harder by being told Tinker Bell fairy tales about how these things ”evolved” or “emerged” without a design or plan.
    If the Darwin cultists want to preach their dogma, we have freedom of religion in this country.  Let them build their own temples and offer sacrifices to their Charlie idols and see if anybody cares. 

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