Biomimetics Holds Intriguing Progress

Living specified engineering is becoming one of science’s fastest and most exciting growing areas for solutions to man’s problems!  Scientists have been discovering that plants, animals and cells through study, imitation or harness them can benefit mankind. Many articles have recently be published on the subject, here are few of them…

1) Whale Power! “We designed a novel blade modification for potential turbine performance improvement, which was inspired by humpback whale flippers, with the addition of tubercles, or bumps, to the leading edge of each blade,” explains Mark Murray, a Naval Academy engineering professor. Previous research demonstrated the addition of biomimetically derived protuberances (technology that mimics nature) improved stall characteristics and aerodynamic performance.”

2) Plants are being intelligently engineered to produce drugs. “Researchers, led by Associate Professor Sarah O’Connor, have added bacterial genes to the periwinkle plant, enabling it to attach halogens such as chlorine or bromine to a class of compounds called alkaloids that the plant normally produces. Many alkaloids have pharmaceutical properties, and halogens, which are often added to antibiotics and other drugs, can make medicines more effective or last longer in the body.”

3) Bioengineering. A contest is being held at the University of Texas at Dallas where students compete to harness bacteria for useful purposes. “The team, which consisted of high school, undergraduate and graduate students, used standard molecular biology tools to reprogram a harmless strain of E. coli to glow when exposed to certain pollutants. Those pollutants are associated with a host of health risks, including cancer, heart damage, liver damage and kidney failure, according to the United Nations World Water Assessment Program.” A Professor of engineering said, “Synthetic biology borrows a lot of ideas from engineering and puts them in the context of biology.”

4) Elephant Trunks. Building  robotic arms which can act gracefully and gently has been a major challenge. So why not learn from an elephant whose designed trunk can gently pick up a peanut out of a child’s hand? A German company called, Festo, decided to do just that and it’s not the only design they are learning from. “Despite its futuristic appearance, Festo’s isn’t the only odd robot arm in development.  A European-wide team has developed something similarly flexible – but here the inspiration came from an octopus’s limb. Instead of pneumatics, the EU team wants to drive their arm with “electroactive polymers” – smart plastics that bend when a voltage is applied. Festo’s decision to seek inspiration from a lumbering mammal marks a departure: it has previously created the most graceful of robotic penguins, jellyfish and manta rays. And another German team has created the AirFish: an airship that wags its tail like a rainbow trout.

As scientists and students alike are using engineering concepts in biology, there is a Darwinian special interest group (to manage damage control) which has been picked up by such websites as Live Science that would like to indoctrinate evolution into everything including engineering by suggesting a non-thinking process is responsible. “Biomimicry,’ as this design and engineering aesthetic is called, draws inspiration from the biomechanical systems that the process of evolution has honed for millions of years, often resulting in startling insights over manmade artificial solutions.”

Darwinian evolution has always explained nature in terms of mere survival. The world is full of bad designs which are useless. However, look at patterning on mammal fur, and the shapes and colors of flowers.  Survival does not require these things, or every bird, mammal, and flower would be highly decorated! Biomimetics makes Darwinian evolution irrelevant, while having the potential to use this amazing science for a goal of improving human life through understanding and imitation of designs in nature!

7 thoughts on “Biomimetics Holds Intriguing Progress

  1. “Darwinian evolution has always explained nature in terms of mere survival. The world is full of bad designs which are useless. However, look at patterning on mammal fur, and the shapes and colors of flowers. Survival does not require these things, or every bird, mammal, and flower would be highly decorated!”

    Once again, Michael displays his abject ignorance of evolution. Not to mention science in general, althoughwe are still waiting for him to confess that his qualifications to report on any aspect of science beggar the term “abysmal.”

    Michael, please explain to us, who await with bated breath, exactly why survival has nothing to do with mammal fur patterning—for example the spots that conceal leopards in the forest, or provide marmosets with species-identifying markings to identify them to possible mates. Then kindly inform us why the shapes and colors of flowers play no part in attracting insects and birds to spread their pollen to others of their kind—which they recognize by their coloring.

    Michael provides ample basis for the proclivity of anyone with the slightest intelligence to laugh at creationists. Remember, there is a point—nearby, in fact—-where ignorance becomes indistinguishable from sheer stupidity.

  2. Well, I didn’t address the second part of Michael’s misunderstanding—his assertion that if fur patterns and flower shapes/colors confer survival benefits, then why are not all animals and plants highly decorated?

    This is akin to asserting that, if colors are necessary for traffic lights to control vehicle flow, then why are street lights white, not colored.[1] Michael here provides yet another reason for people to laugh at creationists.

    But, in addition, there are obviously many instances in which lack of decoration provides survival benefits. The leopard’s spots conceal it in its native forest habitat. The uniform gray and tan colors of mice—sans decoration—serve to conceal them in their different habitat of fields and sand. It requires only a soupcon of reasoning ability to understand that decoration may promote survival in some cases and decrease it in others.

    Also, of course, plain colors may stand out more than particolor in some cases. White lilies stand out in a garden of variegated plants, thus attracting insects for pollination. This concept seems not all that difficult to understand—except to the fogged reason of creationism..


    [1] Readers may have guessed by now a certain obsession for traffic lights. (Well, green ones at least.)

  3. Given the risible stupidity of Michael’s arguments in this post, one might marvel at the strength of his belief.

    But hold! His persistent arguments, dredging up the slight bits of doubts as to any evolutionary or cosmological science and enlisting them in a feckless support of special creation, may indicate precisely the opposite. Michael’s sallies against science may well be motivated bu doubt rather than certainty.

    The research began half a century ago, when Chicago housewife Marian Keech began receiving messages from the planet Clarion that the world would end on December 21, 1954. She gathered followers for an escape via flying saucer. The believers quit their jobs and gave away their possessions.

    What struck the scientists who studied this event was what happened when the cataclysm refused to occur on the promised date. Did the followers abandon their belief? NO! Three psychologists who had infiltrated the group found that their belief actually increased in the face of disconfirming facts. Leon Festinger’s 1956 book, When Prophecy Fails documents how this originally secretive cult mounted a PR campaign to reach out to new followers.[1]

    Recently, sociologists devised a method for measuring the magnitude of this effect in a series of experiments where the strength of the participants’ belief could be assessed independently[2] Different versions tested beliefs that were more central or less central to core values of the participants. What they found was that the effort expended in arguing and proselytizing for a belief is inversely correlated with the strength of the belief, when confidence in the belief is badly shaken by contrary facts. The effect is ascribed to attempts to preserve a sense of self-worth in the face of perceived attacks.

    As noted in a post in the Association for Psychological Science blog

    These findings might serve as a warning to those on the receiving end of passionate preaching, the Northwestern scientists note. Though it’s natural to assume that an enthusiastic and persistent advocate is brimming with self-confidence and certainty of belief, in fact the passion may signal that the preacher is plagued by doubt.

    This research might give us a different slant on Michael’s apparent intransigence.[3]


    [1] This is of course not the first instance of this phenomenon. One need only consider the 7 million members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who predict the end of the world with the regularity of an airline schedule.

    [2] The experiment is described in D. Gal & D.D. Rucker, “When in Doubt, Shout! Paradoxical Effects of Doubt on Proselytizing,” Psychological Science, Oct. 13, 2010 (DOI 10.1177/0956797610385953)

    [3] Another conclusion was that the strong believers argued more forcefully to bystanders who they thought were open-minded than to those who seemed to be already committed. More comestibles for cogitation. (i.e., “food for thought”).

  4. There is an interesting quote in last month’s Scientific American, one that deserves wider circulation. In an article on climate change, science writer Michael Lemonick says—

    “The public needs to understand that in science uncertainty is not the same thing as ignorance; rather it is a discipline for quantifying what is unknown.”

    “Climate Heretic,” Scientific American, Nov, 2010, p. 79, at 82-83.

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