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Let the Birds Teach You

The ancient prophet Job said, “But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; And the birds of the air, and they will tell you” (Job 12:7).  Maybe the birds of the air can tell us how to fly, and the beasts of the sea how to navigate.  Some scientists are trying that without […]

All Kingdoms of Life Have Ideas We Need

Inventors aren’t partial.  They are willing to find inspiration in plants, animals, and microbes.  Here are three examples showing that all kingdoms of life have great engineering ideas that researchers involved in biomimetics are seeking to understand. Plants:  We don’t fight walled cities with catapults any more, but storing elastic energy can still be useful.  […]

Purpose-Driven Science Ignores Darwin

While some Darwinists feel that the Intelligent Design (ID) movement is a major threat to science, many scientists unconnected to ID are acting as if it provides for them a more fruitful approach to research.  Several recent examples illustrated what might be called a silent “de facto” intelligent design movement. Purposeful proteins:  PhysOrg reported work […]

Amazing Insects Defy Evolution

Two recent articles about insects call for the ring buoy on the H.M.S. Darwin.  The first is about fossil amber from India, reported by the BBC News.  “We have complete, three-dimensionally preserved specimens that are 52 million years old,” one of the discoverers announced with astonishment, “and you can handle them almost like living ones.”  […]

Biomimetics: Does It Flatter Darwin?

The imitation of natural design (biomimetics) is a cutting-edge approach to engineering these days.  Many times, the reports on attempts to mimic the amazing properties of cells, plants, and animals have no time to discuss evolution (e.g., 09/24/2010).  Once in awhile, though, scientists or reporters go out of their way to tell their readers that […]

Biomimetics Frontier: The Wild Wet

Some animals have figured out how to turn wetness into an ally instead of a nuisance, and some research teams are hard on their heels trying to learn how to settle that frontier. Wet feet:  Geckos cling to walls and ceilings even when their feet are wet.  How do they do it?  It would be […]

World’s Top Chemists Can’t Match a Plant

There’s a race on: a race to get cheap energy from the sun.  “The design and improvement of solar cells is one of the most vibrant areas of science,” said the BBC News, “in part because sunlight is far and away the planet’s most abundant renewable energy source.”  Two recent articles show that top labs […]

Flying Fish Tested in Wind Tunnel: Match Bird Flight

Sometimes engineers investigate things biologists take for granted.  Flying fish have been observed by countless sailors and cruise passengers, and have been described by life scientists.  It took an engineer, however, to investigate these “unexpected fliers” in a wind tunnel.  Surprisingly, though many have speculated about these creatures, “detailed measurement of wing performance associated with […]

Clever Animals Amaze and Inspire

The living world is an endless source of wonder and inspiration.  There’s an octopus that does a convincing imitation of a flatfish (Science Daily, Live Science), and a red crab species that emerges from its lethargic life around Christmas and migrates miles to the sea by the millions (PhysOrg).  There’s a tiny frog that can […]

Nature’s Designs Excite Inventors

The imitation of nature – biomimetics – is one of the hottest areas in science these days.  Recent reports tell about research teams racing to move natural designs to market, and there’s no end in sight. Pack it green:  Got parcels?  Don’t use styrofoam peanuts and bubble wraps; that’s so 2009.  Why manufacture plastic and […]

Tiny Life in Extraordinary Motion

Don’t despise small things.  Miniature plants and animals can pack some amazing punch and technology, as shown in two recent findings. Plant explosion:  Peat moss.  That’s the filler in our indoor plant soil and Live Science reported that its pots shoot its spores out at 89 miles per hour, producing accelerations of 36,000 G’s.  Some […]

More to a Fly than Meets the Eye

Flies and spiders, members of the arthropod phylum, may seem small and “less evolved” than the larger members of the animal kingdom.  One shouldn’t let size alone be the measure of ability. Fly supercomputer:  Did you ever think of the brain of a fly as a high-speed computer?  That’s what PhysOrg called it: “the minute […]

Proteins Fold Who Knows How

One of the biggest mysteries remaining in cell biology is how proteins fold.  Proteins start out as chains of amino acids (polypeptides) as they exit the ribosome.  Most of them spontaneously fold into their “native” three-dimensional structures, where they will go to work as enzymes, structural materials or other key players in cell life.  About […]

Productive Science Imitates Nature

Examples continue to accumulate that some of the most interesting and fruitful science projects involve copying design principles found in nature.  This “biomimetics” approach not only pleases the consumers who can look forward to greener, cheaper, better products, but leads to deeper understandings of nature’s workings. Gecko adhesives:  PhysOrg published a story on the ongoing […]

Farm Algae for Energy

June 29, 2010 — Why manufacture fuels when microbes can do it faster, better and cheaper?  Researchers at the University of Cambridge are wiring electrodes to algae to produce “green energy” – solar-powered fuel that is carbon-neutral, “cheaper to produce, self-repairing, self-replicating, biodegradable and much more sustainable – real green energy.”     The team […]
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