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Hummingbird Tongue More Clever Than Thought

Humans sip their nectar by tipping a glass and slurping, but how can a hummingbird pull liquid out of flowers with a tongue alone?  Up until now, scientists thought that hummingbird tongues acted like capillary tubes.  New research with high-speed cameras show that the action is much more clever – so clever it might lead […]

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 […]

Animal Tricks Inspire

Here we are in the millennium of science, and we are still trying to figure out how animals do such nifty things.  Some of their nifty tricks we didn’t even know about till researchers took a look.  With high-tech monitoring tools, we might even learn the tricks for our own good. Owl fowl:  The flapping […]

Plagiarizing Nature

Copying someone else’s invention is a crime, but researchers in biomimetics are doing it with impunity and getting away with it. Leaf power:  “Why come up with new ways to generate clean energy, when we can copy what plants have been doing for millennia?”  That’s what led Daniel Nocera and colleagues at MIT to develop […]

Neurons Know What to Do

Neurons are among the most vital cells in the body: after all, your brain is largely composed of neurons.  Neurons are transmission lines of information that keep a body in touch with itself and the world.  None of the other body organs would work without neurons.  The increasingly powerful tools of microscopy are allowing neuroscientists […]

Plants Spring into Action

We shouldn’t take plants for granted.  They seem so slow and stationary, but actually they move and breath and carry on their lives in truly amazing ways.  Plants really show off their glory in the spring.  But how do they know, without eyes, what time it is?     In “The science of spring,” PhysOrg […]

Follow the Insects

Science has good reason to study insects – not just because they are the most numerous and diverse animals on the planet.  They know some tricks we would do well to emulate.  Robot designers are taking the lead on following insects. Print a fly:  New printers are allowing inventors to print the paper-thin wings they […]

Feather Color Is a Costly “Complex System Design”

The brilliant, shimmering colors in the breast feathers of the Bird of Paradise have long fascinated ornithologists.  Alfred Russell Wallace was perhaps the first Englishman to see the magnificent birds in their native Malaysian habitats and wrote, “the richness of their glossy orange colouring, and the exquisite delicacy of the loosely waving feathers, were unsurpassable.”1 […]

Bone Structure Matches Animal Size

The bigger the animal, the more weight it has to carry.  How can large animals maintain strong bones without making them heavier?  It turns out all animals have struts in their bones called trabeculae, but the larger the animal, the fewer, stronger, and farther apart are the struts.  This new finding is leading to ideas […]

Plant Accelerates 600 G’s

Among the fastest organisms in the world is – a plant.  The bladderwort Utricularia, a carnivorous plant that lives in the water, sucks in its prey in a thousandth of a second with an acceleration 600 times the force of gravity.     New Scientist and Science Daily reported on work by the University of […]

How Bacteria Use Their Flagella

Do an imaginary mind-meld with a bacterium for a moment.  Visualize yourself encased in a membrane, surrounded by fluid.  You have no eyes, ears, or hands.  You need to find where food is, and avoid danger, so you have organelles that can take in molecules that provide information about what is going on outside, where […]

Extreme Biomimetics

Imitating spider silk or gecko feet is one thing, but some researchers are going to extremes to try to do what living organisms do. DNA railcar:  Researchers at University of Oxford have constructed a “programable [sic] molecular transport system” that travels like a railcar on DNA molecules, reported PhysOrg.  And that’s not all: they would […]

Update: Maple-Copter Evolves by Design

The rotating helicopter resembling a maple seed, reported on 10/21/2009, has undergone numerous rounds of guided evolution (if that is not an oxymoron). The clever inventors have been trying numerous successive variations on their design, reported PhysOrg. The article includes two video clips showing the young engineers, Evan Ulrich, Darryll Pines, and Sean Humbert from the University of Maryland, testing their product.

Has Biomimetics Surpassed Biology?

An article on Science Daily announced an invention that is “Better Than the Human Eye: Tiny Camera With Adjustable Zoom Could Aid Endoscopic Imaging, Robotics, Night Vision.”  While true that human eyes do not have zoom lenses, how does the comparison hold up?     The invention both imitates and surpasses human vision in some […]

The Brain as the Computer Robots Need

A mind is a terrible thing to waste, especially once you realize how incredibly powerful it is.  In some ways it’s like a computer that needs maintenance; in other ways, it is too powerful to describe in machine language.  Here are a few mind matters to mind because it matters: Reboot to clear the ringing:  […]
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