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Adventures in Biomimetics

The imitation of nature in engineering has become one of the hottest trends in science. Almost every week, amazing technologies are being advanced the easy way – by observing how living things do it. We all stand to benefit from the design-based science of biomimetics. Here are a few recent examples.

Living Fossils Rise from the Dead

The oxymoron “living fossil” is suggestive. Seeing a plant or animal come to life, when it was only known from fossils, might seem miraculous. Perhaps, though, the phrase was invented to rescue Darwinian theory from the vast ages it requires. Is it credible to believe the time gaps? Here are two recent stories about creatures long thought dead, only to be found doing “Quite well, thank you.”

Playing Fast and Loose with Evolution

The word evolution gets used and misused often. Strictly speaking, neo-Darwinian evolution demands that mutations and natural selection operate with no foresight or oversight, no purpose or direction, no impetus toward a desired outcome. In actual practice, scientists and reporters play fast and loose with the term, making it into a designer substitute.

Poison Rat: Did It Evolve?

The African crested rat has a unique way of deterring predators. It licks the bark from a poisonous tree (the same one native hunters use to poison their darts), and licks it onto its fur. Any predator that tries to eat the rat becomes very sick, and quickly learns to keep its distance. This kind of defense has been seen in other animals, but is the first known case of a mammal using a substance from another organism to make itself toxic to predators. Is it a classic case of evolution?

Weird Evolution Tales

Evolutionary theory leads to some fantastic tales. Since evolution is often presumed to be a fact that explains everything in biology, and is itself not subject to testing or doubt, everything in biology must be viewed through an evolutionary lens. This hard-core stance on evolution often leads to assertions and explanations that appear contrived, if not preposterous, to Darwin doubters. Here are some recent examples of weird evolution stories that made it past the logic inspectors simply because evolution is unquestioned.

Chewing on Evolutionary Stories

Fish chew by sending their food on an assembly line to the back of the mouth. Mammals chew by positioning food for the teeth. Can evolution explain this difference? Science Daily was sure of it. “Evolution has made its marks -- large and small -- in innumerable patterns of life,” The article said. “New research from Brown University shows chewing has evolved too.” When one looks for the evidence that chewing has evolved, though, one only finds blanks with the assumption that evolution must have done it.

The Evolution of… Come Again?

Science news articles speak freely of the evolution of this or that, but the fine print often shows a disconnect with the evolution explanation.  Can one speak of the evolution of something that has not changed for millions or years?  The details in the following stories raise questions whether anything significant has evolved in the […]

Cells Have Dimmer Switches

A metaphor has been emerging among biophysicists: cells have rheostats or dimmer switches.  The metaphor implies that some cellular regulatory processes are not just on or off; they have continuous ranges of values that can be finely tuned for the need of the organism.  It's been years since our first report that gene expression is […]

Complex Arthropod Eyes Found in Early Cambrian

Complex eyes with modern optics from an unknown arthropod, more complex than trilobite eyes, have been discovered in early Cambrian strata from southern Australia. The exquisitely-preserved imprints of the eyes in shale were reported by Lee et al. in Nature. The abstract started by quoting Darwin and affirming evolution, but then revealed evidence that complex eyes go further back in the fossil record than previously thought possible.

Follow the Leader: Nature

Ever since biomimetics (the imitation of nature) gradually emerged around 2002 and really took off in 2005, it has not slowed down. Over 90 previous entries in these pages have reported teams all over the world seeking out natural designs for ideas. The reports have accelerated in recent years to the point where there is only space for short summaries that give a taste of the wide variety of engineering work taking inspiration from plants, animals, and even cells. You yourself might inspire some inventor. Here are a few more highlights from recent adventures in biomimetics.

Precambrian Rabbit or Evolutionary Transition?

Some evolutionists have defended their theory by proposing a falsification test: the discovery of a Precambrian rabbit. No such fossil has ever been found, partly because any stratum containing a rabbit fossil would never have been labeled Precambrian in the first place. But evolutionists would be surprised at finding complex non-marine multicellular eukaryotes in Precambrian strata, and this has just been announced in the journal Nature.

Small Animals Astound, Inspire

Elephants and great whales impress us with their bulk, but there are smaller critters that are no less impressive.  Here are a few fantastic animals that come in very small packages. Bears in space:  Here’s an animal so bizarre, so well-armed, so scary looking, if you knew they were in your back yard you would […]

Venom for Health

Remember when botulinum toxin, one of the most potent poisons known to man, entered medical science for good?  Now fashion models brag about how “botox” improved their good looks, and sufferers of excess sweating or migraines find relief with the neurotoxin.  The search for good in bad substances has not stopped; other venomous organisms, once […]

The Eyes Have It: Pro Software

You have a biological version of Photoshop in your eyes.  That’s what Richard Robinson, a freelance science writer from Massachusetts, said in PLoS Biology.1  The eye is not a camera, and the retina is not a piece of film.  Indeed, the retina might be better likened to a computer running Photoshop, given the extent of […]

Original Soft Tissue Found in Mosasaur Fossil

Original collagen has been found in a mosasaur fossil.  Mosasaurs are marine reptiles that lived in the age of dinosaurs.  This one, found in chalk layers in Belgium, is alleged to be 70 million years old.     The press release on PhysOrg said, “the discovery demonstrates that the preservation of primary soft tissues and […]
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