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A Rat Race to Build Whiskered Robots

Some scientists at Bristol Robotics Lab are pretty proud of themselves for building a robot with whiskers.  It can seek out and identify objects using its whiskers, just like rats do.  But they should still take their hats off to their living model, because the rat’s technology is far superior.  Science Daily mentioned several facts […]

Computer Programmers Borrow Eye Technology

Computer processing of video images may become twice as accurate with 10 times the speed of earlier models, thanks to what scientists are imitating in the human eye.  “The linear solution to one of the most vexing challenges to advancing computer vision has direct applications in the fields of action and object recognition, surveillance, wide-base […]

Plants Use the Perfect Propeller

What kid hasn’t played with maple seeds to watch them spin in the air like helicopters?  Scientists watch them, too.  A team from the Netherlands and California found out how they stay in the air for so long without engines to drive them.  One would think in an era of advanced aeronautical engineering the physics […]

Discovering Health and Technology in the Human Body

Why invent technology from scratch, when the body contains substances that point the way to high tech, and can heal almost like magic?  Several articles show that harnessing the body’s own resources is the wave of the future.     Umbilical cords were usually tossed into the maternity ward biowaste can, but now they are […]

Cuttlefish Inspire Reflective Screens

“Cuttlefish are masters of disguise, able to change their skin color in less than a second to hide from predators or draw in prey for the kill,” begins an article on MSNBC News.  A team at MIT, fascinated with the physics of this capability, tried to imitate it.  They found they could electrically control the […]

Better Solar Cells with Diatoms

Let’s start with the operative quote before the subject matter: “Nature is the engineer, not high tech tools.  This is providing a more efficient, less costly way to produce some of the most advanced materials in the world.”  OK, now the subject: how to build better solar cells, by imitating diatoms.  See the story on […]

Animal Flight Control: Where’s the Evolution?

A couple of articles in Science last week discussed the marvels of flight control in birds.  “Being earthbound save for the ability to fly airplanes and helicopters, humans stand in awe of animals that power their own movement through the air by flapping their wings, and of the spectacular maneuvers that some of these animals […]

Quick, Make Like an Ant

Ants deserve a lot of respect, despite being a nuisance in the kitchen.  The very fact they are so effective at bugging us is a testament to their ingenuity in foraging, communicating and organizing themselves into successful colonies.  We might just gain some valuable knowledge by watching them more closely. Foraging: Live Science says that […]

Envying the Tooth of the Sea Urchin

Did you know the lowly sea urchin has a tooth?  It’s not just any tooth: it’s “a remarkable grinding tool,” according to a team of international scientists.  They even used the word “exquisite” in the title of their paper in PNAS.1  Humans might benefit from knowing more about this tool.  “The improved understanding of these […]

See Like a Bee, Fly Like a Fly

An aerospace engineer in Australia was inspired by insects to design a better way for missiles to find their targets.  Aviation Week reported on work announced by the Australian Government Department of Defense.  “Bioseeker,” a new guidance system for smarter weapons, was inspired by insect navigation.  The Hon. Warren Snowdon, on his website as Minister […]

Can Evolution Keep You Safe?

A new practical use for Darwinism has come to light: natural security.  Two recent articles claim that we can learn from evolution how best to protect ourselves. Natural security:  Darwinism can be practical, thinks Rafe Sagarin, an ecologist at Duke University.  Science Daily reported that he is using Darwinian principles to write and speak about […]

The Uses of Wood Rot

Wood rot fungus doesn’t sound like a useful thing.  Most people would rather get rid of it – especially those who have seen their houses decay because of it.  Some scientists, however, are intrigued by it.  It may have properties that could some day help power your car.     Science Daily reported that the […]

Modeling Solar Cells on Butterflies

Sunlight is free – if we could just learn how to use it better.  For decades, engineers have been trying to improve the efficiency of solar cells.  Why not look at nature?  Science Daily reported on work going on in China and Japan: “The discovery that butterfly wings have scales that act as tiny solar […]

Corn Is Fuel in More Ways than One

There’s been controversy lately about the diversion of corn crops from food for humans to ethanol for engines.  Why not both?  A new pilot program announced by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft saves the corn cobs for eating but makes ethanol out of the straw.  If so, this would make the whole plant an energy factory for the human […]

Minerals Can Fool Astrobiologists

Look at this picture on National Geographic News.  Looks alive, doesn’t it?  It’s only a mineral.  The article contains a gallery of five micrographs of minerals that form curvy crystals.  They’re called biomorphs (a word simply meaning life-like shapes).     “Until now scientists had thought rounded crystals, such as those found in seashells and […]
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