Intelligent Design Is Leading Biology's Golden Age
Look at a natural design. Seek to understand it. Seek to imitate it. Biology advances.
Despite all the talk about Darwinism, it’s intelligent design that is really advancing biology. Here are examples.
Cell-free protein synthesis is potential lifesaver (Science Daily): Scientists have studied protein synthesis in ribosomes for decades now, and that knowledge of how nature builds proteins could pay off big time. The potential for artificially manufactured proteins is enormous: “Making these miniature factories cell-free, which eliminates the maintenance of a living system, simplifies the process and lowers cost.” An example is helping soldiers on the battlefield with life-saving proteins.
Snake robot range-sensing control system avoids tail-end collisions (PhysOrg): Make like a snake and save lives. These robot designers invented a robot that imitates a snake’s slithering crawl, and think it will help in search-and-rescue operations.
Snake bellies help scientists get a grip (PhysOrg): Curious about how snakes seem to climb and crawl anywhere, another team is considering the adhesive properties of snake skin. To imitate it, you first have to understand it. “Acquiring a better understanding for how flat-bellied species like the brown tree snakes lodge their keeled ridge against protrusions and secure themselves in place during climbing could help lead Jayne and others toward many practical applications for biology, mechanics and engineering.”
Learning immortality from the hydra (Live Science): The hydra, a tiny, simple organism that lives in the water, can regrow its parts when cut off. Made up mostly of stem cells, it seems to be immortal. A researcher at Pomona College is intrigued; could we learn the secrets of aging by studying this little creature? “I do believe that an individual hydra can live forever under the right circumstances,” he said.
Antireflective Coating: Sugar-based carbon hollow spheres that mimic moth eyes (Science Daily): The subtitle sums up this discovery: “They are not to eat, but this insect-inspired ordered monolayer of hollow carbon spheres may be a new, green and extremely lightweight antireflective coating that almost perfectly absorbs microwave radiation.”
The eyes of moths are covered with a periodic, hexagonal pattern of tiny bumps smaller than the wavelength of the incident light. They act as a continuous refractive index gradient, allowing the moths to see at night and avoid nocturnal predators, like the bat. The physiology also makes the moth eye one of the most effective antireflective coatings in nature.
Blue-green algae efficient in ‘harvesting’ light (PhysOrg): Researchers would sure like to imitate this. “Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, have an ingenious system to prepare themselves for the coming daylight when it is dark by setting up a large ‘antenna’.” The key to application is understanding, which would have “enormous value” for the world:
“Enhancing the photosynthesis of our crops is as important as the Green Revolution has been” says Eric Schranz, professor in Biosystematics. “To achieve this improvement we need new and very detailed information about the possibilities which nature provides. This new knowledge is therefore a major breakthrough.”
Leaf-mimicking device harnesses light to purify water (Science Daily): Understanding both photosynthesis and transpiration is teaching scientists how to purify water by harnessing solar energy. This could help a billion people who live in areas of water scarcity.
Study shows how calcium carbonate forms composites to make strong materials such as in shells and pearls (PhysOrg): Shells are made of the same stuff as chalk. Why are they so hard to break? It’s the composition of calcium carbonate with proteins, this article explains. Both “beautiful and functional,” shells of oysters are giving scientists “pearls of wisdom.” Did you know you have the same material inside your ears?
Calcium carbonate is one of the most important materials on earth, crystallizing into chalk, shells, and rocks. Animals from mollusks to people use calcium carbonate to make biominerals such as pearls, seashells, exoskeletons, or the tiny organs in ears that maintain balance. These biominerals include proteins or other organic matter in the crystalline matrix to convert the weak calcium carbonate to hard, durable materials.
Biofilter made from peanut shell degrades air pollutants (Science Daily): Last month, we found peanuts being used to make bullet-proof vests (12/14/15). Now, another article talks about peanuts cleaning the air. “In order to clean the air of pollutants such as methanol and solvents used in various industries, a biotechnology expert designed a biofilter that uses microorganisms living in the shell of the peanut.” The researcher plans to teach poor students in Mexico how to use this simple technique. In this way, a waste product can be turned to healthy use.
In each of these stories, scientists were inspired by design solutions in plants and animals. They first had to understand how nature does it, then they gained understanding that inspired useful applications. Biomimetics, based on design thinking, is one of the hottest trends in science, despite all the talk about how nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.
Don’t let evolution take credit (8/24/07). This is intelligent design leading biology into a golden age of understanding and practical benefit for people.