Biomimetics Shows Quite A Bit Of Promise

Scientists are in a biomimicry frenzy, not that it is a bad thing, although credit is given to evolution.  Aromatic compounds comes from plants, which does the signaling, defense and symbiosis. A research named, “Scripps” is trying to figure out why the terpenes are so hard to produce in a lab but yet routine for plants.

Using new chemistry, science daily reports…

“The new technique, described in an advance online edition of the journal Nature Chemistry on Sept. 23, 2012, mimics a crucial but obscure biochemical phenomenon that allows cells to make terpenes. The discovery may one day result in cheaper, fully synthetic versions of the cancer drug Taxol, the antimalarial compound artemisinin and hundreds of other useful terpene products.

“It’s exciting for us because we’re now making molecules that have never been made in the laboratory before, and we’ve done this by first observing what nature does,” said the senior investigator for the study Ryan A. Shenvi, a chemist at Scripps Research.”

In another article which is very excited about biomimetics being able to help improve human lives in the future!

“Biomimicry looks for how nature performs a function,” Marie Zanowick, a certified biomimicry professional for the Environmental Protection Agency, told Boulder Weekly. “It mimics natural strategy and the best design principles on this planet.” Biomimicry has been around for decades, but modern scientists are increasingly embracing the concept.

Velcro, for example, was inspired by the way burrs grab on to fur. By looking at systems that exist in nature, scientists hope to solve world hunger, create better technologies, and produce more sustainable devices that will improve people’s lives. Take Russell Rodriguez, for example. A researcher at the University of Washington, Rodriguez has developed a way to grow rice to five times its normal size while using half the amount of water. Meanwhile, the plants are more resistant to cold and salt. If it is commercialized, this rice could be a way to help solve world hunger.”

This is quite amazing, if it does go commercial and is able to benefit mankind, it will be interesting to see how well this is perceived by the “organic” or “natural” community. More than likely they would see this as a threat to their products. The article then gives credit to evolution…

“Much of this research is expected to result in eco-friendly discoveries. Zanowick says biomimicry is a great way to create more sustainable technology because it mimics things that already work efficiently in nature. “It’s based on 3.8 billion years of research and development, and the only organisms that survive are the ones that follow life’s principles.”

The description resembles an intelligent scientist rather than evolution. Since when does evolution (a mindless process) conduct a research and development program using design principles? Evolution is blind, it has no goals to accomplish, no foresight, therefore it cannot come up with design principles to conduct its research and development. Giving it billions of years is circular reasoning.  Nature is a product of intelligence which is why the credit for evolution sounds like a scientist rather than a mindless natural process!

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!