Biomimetics Stories Showcase Natural Designs
Evolution is no match for five enthusiastic reports of scientists rushing to imitate animal designs.
Geckos in space: Our friendly geckos are virtual mascots of biomimetics. PhysOrg reports that Abigail, a new robot modeled after the dry, atomic-adhesive properties of gecko toes is getting ready for use in spacecraft, where the ability to adhere to surfaces in zero gravity is a plus. Other methods – sticky tape, magnets, or velcro – are not as good because they leave residues or interfere with instruments. Canadian researchers working with the European Space Agency envision the “tiny legged prototype” as a “forerunner of automatons which crawl along the hulls of spacecraft, cleaning and maintaining them.” The team lead explained, “This approach is an example of biomimicry, taking engineering solutions from the natural world.”
Sea turtles in Georgia: Scientists at Georgia Tech are paddling across the sand like baby loggerhead sea turtles – their robots are, that is. PhysOrg updated the story of Daniel Goldman’s CRAB lab (Complex Rheology and Biomechanics Laboratory) that works on the “design and engineering of robots that must traverse unstable, uneven terrain—those used in search and rescue operations at disaster sites, for example.” Although Goldman believes the work may “deepen our understanding not only of animal survival, evolution and ecology, but also, potentially, the evolution of complex life forms on Earth,” the fact that it might “potentially” do so reveals it to be only a pipe dream unrealized in the real legwork of the lab. The focus, in fact, is on design so good, humans can’t keep up. Goldman said, “The best robots people design and build can’t out-compete a hatchling sea turtle whose life consists of swimming all the time and using these appendages on land only for half an hour, running from the nest.”
Tongues in vineyards: In order to help farmers decide which grapes are ripe, engineers in Spain are designing an “electronic tongue,” Science Daily reported. It can’t really match the abilities of real tongues, for it is only capable of measuring acidity and sugar content. Still, it’s a start.
Snails in hospitals: The most effective pain relievers may come from toxins, as we have reported several times. Cone snails in particular, Science Daily reported, are “for life, not just at Christmas.” In a brief throw-away line, the article claimed “More importantly, during their evolution, cone snails have developed complex venoms, some powerful enough to kill people,” but then turned to the focus of interest: “Scientists are now using these for research into novel drugs for the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of pernicious medical conditions including intense chronic pain, epilepsy, asthma and multiple sclerosis.” In addition, cone snails are “Blessed with beautiful and coveted shells” that have lured collectors for centuries or even thousands of years.
Leaping lizards (or rather salamanders): Who would have thought a flat-lying salamander could be a high-jump champion? If you don’t believe it, watch the short, high-speed video clip on Science Now. By flicking its tail, a salamander can catapult itself six to eight times its body height – a feat that can “put the best basketball players to shame“. The method is actually quite complicated; it required high-speed cameras to follow. The finding must be good for something, and indeed it is: “The salamander’s leaps demonstrate that even objects that lie flat on the ground can get into the air, despite the lack of a means to push off, and could lead to the design of flat catapults.”
Isn’t this better than the Darwinist mythology documented in the previous article (1/07/14)? Here is real nature you can get a grip on. You can watch it. You can measure it. You can understand it. You can copy it. You can use it to help mankind. This is how science should be done: observe, understand, publish, apply. Francis Bacon judged good science by its fruits. Look at the bitter fruits of Darwinism, then compare that with the blessings of biomimetics – a design-oriented approach to science. The choice is clear: out with the old myths, in with the new understanding. The world will rejoice with the fruits of design science.