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Make Like a Dog, Owl, or Beetle: How Biomimetics Will Improve Our Lives
November 30, 2012
The greatest breakthroughs in health and engineering may be as near as the back yard: 13 more stimulating stories from biomimetics.
Innovation as a Dodge
February 7, 2012
This is not a truck commercial. It’s not about a Dodge as an innovation, but innovation as a dodge. It’s about how a word, innovation, is used as a euphemism in evolution articles. The word seems to mean, “we have no clue how this evolved, but it must have for evolution to be true.” It’s a handy rhetorical trick, because without it, a reader might be tempted to think the evidence supports creation. Some recent articles show how the trick is employed.
Selling Darwinism as a Cinch
January 16, 2012
The origin of biological complexity is a major concern for believers in unguided, random processes of nature. Some recent news articles, though, make it sound easy – no problem at all. But do their theories and experiments reflect the real world?
Your Copper Pipes
November 8, 2011
Each of us is part metal. Our bodies contain iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, manganese, vanadium, molybdenum, selenium, and even nickel like the coins in our pockets or purses. Unlike the other common elements of life (carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, calcium, nitrogen, phosphorus), our metals are not synthesized and recycled, but must be imported and handled with care. Copper is a good example of a biological metal that performs multiple useful functions – that is, unless something goes wrong with the machinery handling it.
Your Motor/Generators Are 100% Efficient
October 14, 2011
ATP synthase astounds again. The molecular machine that generates almost all the ATP (molecular “energy pellets”) for all life was examined by Japanese scientists for its thermodynamic efficiency. By applying and measuring load on the top part that synthesizes ATP, they were able to determine that one cannot do better at getting work out of a motor – a motor that is also a generator.
Mighty Mitochondria Conduct Energy Exquisitely
October 7, 2011
None of us could live without mitochondria. These are the power centers ubiquitous in eukaryotic cells. They contain molecular machines in factories whose jobs are to generate and conduct electrical currents. The currents run turbines that packetize the energy in molecules of ATP, which are then used by most processes in the cell. New discoveries continue to fascinate scientists with how mitochondria work. Some scientists use their energy to find ways Darwinian evolution could build the machinery of life.
Your Rotary Engines Are Arranged in Factories
August 17, 2011
As if ATP synthase was not amazing enough, a team of scientists in Germany now tells us they are arranged in rows with other equipment to optimize performance. From electron micrographs of intact mitochondria, they were able to detect the rotary engines of ATP synthase and other parts of the respiratory chain. Their diagram in an open-source paper in PNAS looks for all the world like a factory.
Cell Chaperones Keep Proteins Properly Folded
August 2, 2011
Imagine linking together a chain of 300 plastic shapes, some with magnets at various places. Then let it go and see if you could get it to fold spontaneously into a teapot. This is the challenge that cells face every minute: folding long chains of amino acids (polypeptides) into molecular machines and structures for the cell’s numerous tasks required for life. DNA in the nucleus codes for these polypeptides. They are assembled in ribosomes in single-file order. How do they end up in complex folded shapes? Some polypeptides will spontaneously collapse into their native folds, like the magnetic chain in our analogy. Others, however, need help. Fortunately, the cell provides an army of assistants, called chaperones, to monitor, coax, and repair unfolded proteins, to achieve “proteostasis” – a stable, working set of proteins. That army is so well-organized and complex, scientists continue to try to figure out how it performs so well in the field.