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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:  […]

Beavers: Natural Engineers Do It Better

A curious case of biomimetics was reported by Science Daily: engineers imitating beavers.  River restoration is a big project in many states that would like to return their rivers to the way the colonists first found them.  “When engineers restore rivers,” the article began, “one Kansas State University professor hopes they’ll keep a smaller engineer […]

Plant Wonders Are in the Details

When you step on a weed growing out of a crack in the sidewalk, do you have any idea what kind of amazing machinery you stepped on?  Maybe a closer look will help. Communications and switching systems:  When a seed sprouts, it needs to first grow upward in the dark while trying to protect itself.  […]

Design Science Scores

A team of scientists at Leeds University (UK) led by well-known design scientist Andy McIntosh has won an award for innovative design inspired by nature.  “The team’s work has received the outstanding contribution to innovation and technology title at the Times Higher Education awards in London,” reported the BBC News.     By studying and […]
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