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Self-cleaning Surfaces Take the Lotus Position

Photovoltaic cells and microelectromechanical systems have a problem: they collect dirt.  What to do?  Look to the lotus, says a EurekAlert article about research at Georgia Institute of Technology.  Dr. C. P. Wong and team took inspiration from the self-cleaning surfaces of lotus leaves.  “Despite growing in muddy conditions, the leaves and flowers remain clean […]

Whiskers Inspire Technology

The latest gadget on robots or Mars rovers could be whiskers.  These tactile sensors provide ways to see in 3D, says a report on National Geographic News.  Information about latitude, longitude and elevation can be gleaned from whiskers.  Rodents continually rotate their whiskers to gather information, but seals and sea lions let the ocean currents […]

Yoke Up Those Bacteria

My, how history repeats itself – often in unexpected ways.  In ancient times, our ancestors got the heavy work done by hitching oxen, horses or slaves (like Samson, see pictures 1 and 2) to a harness and making them turn a grinding wheel.  The same principle is now on the cutting edge of modern applied […]

Grass Shack Makes a Comeback

Oh, what a feeling: Toyota Roof Garden wants to replace your roof with grass.  Bill Christensen at Live Science says that the car company’s grass tiles include imbedded irrigation piping, provide good thermal insulation and reflect less urban heat to the atmosphere.  The special grass only needs mowing once a year.  Company website (Japanese): Toyota […]

Honey More Effective than Antibiotics

A good old nature remedy is making a comeback: honey for wounds.  An article on EurekAlert about research at the University of Bonn states that honey is more effective than antibiotics at healing cuts and wounds.  Apparently the ancient Egyptians knew about its healing power.  Honey rejects dead tissue faster, repels bacteria, promotes more rapid […]

Rubisco “Highly Tuned” for Fixing Atmospheric Carbon

Rubisco sounds like a brand of cracker or something, but it’s actually an air cleaner your life depends on.  It’s an enzyme that fixes atmospheric carbon for use by photosynthetic microbes and plants.  In doing so, it sweeps the planet of excess carbon dioxide – the greenhouse gas implicated in discussions of global warming – […]

Reach Out and Touch Some Robot

The news media were excited to report an advance in materials science last week that could pave the way for touchy-feely robots (see BBC News, News @ Nature, LiveScience and National Geographic News, for instance).  Two scientists produced a thin film with touch resolution comparable to that of a human finger, an order of magnitude […]

Bioneers Update: International Conference Held on Animal-Inspired Design

Georgia Tech came out with a press release about progress at their Center for Biologically Inspired Design (CBID) that opened last year (see 10/29/2005).  At a two-day conference May 11-12, international representatives from 20 institutions shared their inspirations on how nature can “help them solve some of the most complex problems of the day,” just […]

Insects Lead the Way

Why engineer things from scratch, when we can imitate nature?  Two recent examples come from the world of insects.  A press release from UC Berkeley begins, “Using the eyes of insects such as dragonflies and houseflies as models, a team of bioengineers at University of California, Berkeley, has created a series of artificial compound eyes.”  […]

Experimental Biologists Look to Animals for Inspiration

Whether insects, fish, birds or mammals, animals have a lot to teach scientists and engineers.  Here are some recent stories that begin to answer, “How do they do that?” with hopes that humans might be able to mimic their feats. Hard sponges:  Aimee Cunningham in Science News (03/25/2006; 169:12, p. 184) described the astonishment Joanna […]

What’s Darwin Got to Do With It?

Is evolutionary theory useful?  We saw Donald Kennedy et al. claiming last week (see 02/24/2006) that doctors need training in evolutionary thinking.  This week, Christopher Beard (U of Pittsburgh Medical Center) claimed that a study of dinosaur evolution can help doctors understand human lower back pain (see EurekAlert).  These, however, are announcements after the fact.  […]

Alien Engineering: Is It Intelligent Design?

The SETI Institute finished airing a 2-part series on the History Channel called Alien Engineering (it will be rebroadcast on Feb. 18).  The series, featuring SETI Institute scientists Seth Shostak and Frank Drake, asks the following questions: Prepare for an exercise in imagination.  Suppose that an alien spacecraft crashed in the desert and we humans […]

Eyes on the Prize: Science Sees Gold in Biomimetics

A fly eye made the cover of Science this week.1  It’s not that the compound eye is interesting to entomologists; MSNBC News picked up on the real message: “Animal eyes inspire new technology – Researchers learn optics lessons from biology.”  The cover story is about biomimetics, or reverse-engineering nature.  Scientists are looking for ways to […]

Scientists Learning How to Harness Cellular Trucks

In an article that blurs the line between biology and technology, a press release from the Max Planck Institute (see EurekAlert for English translation) described the amazing performance of the nanoscopic trucks that ride the cell’s microtubule superhighways.  Kinesin and myosin motors, fueled by ATP, usually “sprint” on the trackways for short distances, but working […]

Living Wonders at a Glance

Here is an assortment of recently-reported biological marvels at the cellular level.  Researchers into creation and evolution explanations may wish to delve into these more deeply. Clock Conductor:  The brain is a “time machine,” reports EurekAlert on research at Duke University about the human biological clock.  Each structure in the brain has a resonant frequency […]
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