I wish I could throw a bone up into the air and have a groovy big honking spaceship appear! Only in the movies...Darwinism throws a bone up into the air and has a modern organism fall down. In real life, throw a bone up and if it doesn't bonk you on the head on the way down there will probably be a dog or a raccoon that comes along and gnaws on it. In fact, Darwinism cannot even account for the bone. Epic fail! I give you a more plausible explanation below...The awesome movie has come to youtube!!!
Biomimetics Is On a Roll 11/30/2010
Nov 30, 2010 — There’s a gold rush on: a rush to copy living technology. Scientists have found that plants, animals and cells have the solutions to problems that will help us all, if we will just study them, imitate them, or harness them.
- Jellyfish pumps: Need a flexible pump for medical use? Look no further than the aquarium tank, where jellyfish have mastered the art of propulsion with soft material. Science Daily reported on work at Caltech to study how jellyfish do it. “Jellyfish at millimeter scales, for example, exploit the small layer of water that adheres to their surface as they move and use it as additional paddle at no extra cost, the article said. “Further, a clever arrangement of multiple pacemakers within the jellyfish body allow for a reliable yet tunable pumping mechanism.” One of the researchers “plans to use this practical understanding to help design a whole spectrum of flexible pumps that are optimized for different tasks and conditions.”
- Elephant trunks: Getting robotic arms to act gracefully and gently has been a major challenge. Imagine the pain of shaking hands with a typical robot. Why not learn the secrets from an elephant, whose trunk can gently pick up a peanut out of a child’s hand? That’s what Festo, a German company, did. They created the “elephant’s trunk-inspired Bionic Handling Assistant,” reported New Scientist, which “is peppered with resistance sensors that limit its extension when it senses contact – potentially making it safe for anyone to use and interact with.” A video clip shows the device doing a clumsy but encouraging imitation of an elephant trunk.
The short article makes it clear this is not the only example of bio-inspiration going on in Germany:
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.Live Science also discussed cheerfully the new elephant-trunk robotic arm, but gave the credit to chance as the inventor: “‘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.”
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.
- Shark skin: Want to reduce drag on swimsuits and ships’ hulls? Make like a shark, said National Geographic News says. It’s “scaly hide serves as both a suit of armor and a means of streamlining movement,” researchers at the University of Alabama are finding. Professor Amy Lang also gave credit to Darwin: “Overall, sharks’ 400 million years of evolution for strength and speed may someday inspire better designs for machines that are prone to drag, such as aircraft, Lang noted.”
- Shark sub. The whale shark is the world’s biggest fish. How does it keep all that mass afloat? “Whale Sharks Use Geometry to Avoid Sinking,” reported Science Daily. Marine biologists publishing in the British Ecological Society journal Functional Ecology found that the whale shark’s glide, that looks so natural, is really an “astonishing feat of mathematics and energy conservation.” Adrian Gleiss from Swansea University noted, “oceanic animals not only have to consider their travel speed, but also how vertical movement will affect their energy expenditure, which changes the whole perspective.”
Sensors placed on the giants showed that they can use their negative buoyancy to descend, but need to flap their tails when ascending; nevertheless, their motion “optimized the energetic cost of vertical movement,” the researchers found. “This use of negative buoyancy may play a large part in oceanic sharks being able to locate and travel between scarce and unpredictable food sources efficiently.” Although this article did not mention biomimetics, the principle sounds like something submarine designers could use.
- Cell rotors: Another German team has succeeded in getting a three-blade structure in a hexagonal cage billionths of a meter across to rotate spontaneously. “Nature itself provides the role model for such self-organizing systems,” a report on PhysOrg said, accompanied by a video clip that shows the nano-rotor in action. The primitive device is a far cry from those found in living cells: “However, the coveted dream of using self-organization effects in such a way that nano machines [i.e., in the cell] assemble themselves is still a thing of the future.” Presumably, progress will be made by intelligent design.
- Electrical engineering turns bioengineering: Students at the University of Texas at Dallas are competing in contests to harness bacteria for useful purposes. Since E. coli bacteria already have the toolkit for probing chemicals, the students employ synthetic biology techniques to make them do what they want – such as turning green when sensing toxins. Story at PhysOrg. An engineering prof said, “Synthetic biology borrows a lot of ideas from engineering and puts them in the context of biology.”
- Got that glow: Speaking of fluorescent proteins (retrieved from jellyfish), Vyv Salisbury, a biomedical researcher at University of West England, is excited about the possibilities of putting glowing bacteria to use. They have “enormous future potential” to “produce exquisitely sensitive and versatile microbial biosensors,” PhysOrg reported, opening with the promise, “A professor from the University of the West of England will present her inaugural lecture on bioluminesence [sic] and give insight into how this natural phenomenon has been used to make biomarkers that are making exciting breakthroughs in several areas of health research.”
- Whale blades: According to PhysOrg, “lessons learned from the ocean’s largest mammals has inspired United States Naval Academy researchers to tackle one of the serious challenges of this technology: the low velocity associated with many tidal flows and the difficulty of extracting useful energy from low speed flows using current designs.” Enter the humpback whale, with its bumpy-edged fins. Turns out that design improves performance: “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,” announced Mark Murray, a Naval Academy engineering professor. He showed that “the addition of biomimetically derived protuberances (technology that mimics nature) improved stall characteristics and aerodynamic performance.”
- Studying flight: Four recent articles did not mention human applications yet, but showed how scientists are eagerly studying the flight capabilities of animals to gain understanding, with a subtle indication that human engineers can learn from them. Students at Wright State in Ohio are studying dragonflies (New Scientist). An engineer at Bristol University gained insights into pterodactyl flight (BBC News). And the BBC News also posted half a dozen dazzling photos of flying fish. PhysOrg spoke of scientists studying flying snakes. You thought this one was going to be about birds, didn’t you? That last article did mention another team proposing that “airplanes be designed more like birds.”
Here’s a short list of the animals that were inspiring their design plans: flying snakes, sharks, birds, whales, hummingbirds, and jellyfish. “These scientists from far-flung fields share a common conviction: that future engineering has a great deal to learn from the natural world.” The article quoted a USC engineer who said, “The number of people who are developing, encouraging, thinking about biologically inspired designs is vastly more than it was five years ago, two years ago even.”
A journal called Bioinspiration and Biomimetics published a special edition called “Bioinspired Flight” this month, said PhysOrg. And it’s not just for the birds. Scientists analyzed controlled falling and gliding by geckos, snakes and insects. Bioengineering brings together engineers and biologists, who have typically lived in different academic worlds. “Because biologists and engineers are typically trained quite differently, there is a gap between the understanding of natural flight of biologists and the engineer’s expertise in designing vehicles that function well,” David Lentink from Wageningen University said. “In the middle however is a few pioneering engineers who are able to bridge both fields.” The article includes three video clips, one of a falling gecko flipping over and landing on its feet like a cat, one of a test robotic fly, and an amazing series of snake flights showing how they can maneuver and even turn while gliding.
The Biomimicry Institute is open for business with a website, newsletter, educational resources, and even a children’s music CD. Why? “Biomimicry is the science and art of emulating Nature’s best biological ideas to solve human problems,” the website explains on its front page. “Non-toxic adhesives inspired by geckos, energy efficient buildings inspired by termite mounds, and resistance-free antibiotics inspired by red seaweed are examples of biomimicry happening today -- and none too soon. Humans may have a long way to go towards living sustainably on this planet, but 10-30 million species with time-tested genius to help us get there.” Another of their websites, AskNature.org, provides a “database of nature’s strategies” with 1360 entries so far.
Not everybody is inspired to the same degree. The PhysOrg article about the Long Beach convention quoted USC engineer Geoffrey Spedding cautioning, “Just because it exists in nature doesn’t mean it’s an optimum ... the designs that come through evolution are just good enough to survive, that’s all,” adding that “Nature has yet to come up with a decent wheel.”
What is Spedding talking about? Hasn’t he seen a bacterial flagellum? It’s a more efficient wheel than anything man ever invented. And his logic is bad. Like a Darwinian, he has to see everything in terms of mere survival. The world has a great deal of “useless beauty” that goes beyond mere survival. Look at the coloration on birds and insects, the 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 so decorated. Beauty and elegance are not incompatible with survival; they provide frosting on the cake, making this a world of incredible variety and beauty. Even evolutionary scientists can recognize that animals are “overengineered” for the functions they require for survival (03/23/2004).
Biomimetics has the potential to make Darwinism irrelevant, and bring together both creationists and evolutionists for the common goal of improving human life through understanding and imitation of natural design. Darwin need not have anything to do with it. Evolutionary theory could be a harmless sideshow, if not a distraction, to the goals of biomimicry.
Two alarming subcultures are tainting the biomimetics movement, however. One is that Darwinists are trying to co-opt the movement by forcing their worldview onto it: e.g.,
Hopefully many will discern that oil and water mix better than biomimetics and Darwinism. How long can the public endure the halitosis that billions of years of chance accidents yielded engineering marvels that our goal-oriented, purposeful human intelligence cannot duplicate? Remember, too, that as good as the robotic flexible arm or mechanical insect perform, artificial biomimics cannot reproduce themselves, repair themselves, or proofread themselves. Human technology looks pathetic by comparison. Darwinists insert their rhetoric into the biomimetics adventure at their peril.
- “...the designs that come through evolution are just good enough to survive, that’s all,” (PhysOrg)
- “...the biomechanical systems that the process of evolution has honed for millions of years” (Live Science)
- “...sharks’ 400 million years of evolution for strength and speed may someday inspire better designs for machines” (National Geographic)
- “...Scientists in the US and Canada are studying how flying fish evolved the enlarged paired fins...” (BBC News)
- “After 3.8 billion years of evolution, nature has learned what works and what lasts” (Biomimicry Institute)
A second and more worrisome trend is a kind of new-age mysticism arising about nature. This can be seen at the Biomimicry Institute where Nature is capitalized, as in, “How would Nature heat and cool a home?” Even though hardcore atheist evolutionists like E. O. Wilson are on its advisory board, the Biomimicry Institute risks a return to Pocahontas-style nature worship with lines like, “Humans may have a long way to go towards living sustainably on this planet, but 10-30 million species with time-tested genius to [sic] help us get there.” Their children’s CD is labeled “Ask the planet,” as if we are to seek inner wisdom from the Earth goddess.
It’s an alarming sign, but Bible-believing Christians can take heart at this in a backhanded way. For one, it unmasks the secular evolutionists as the pantheist pagans they always were at heart. For another, it fulfills Scripture. Their behavior follows exactly what the Apostle Paul described in Romans 1, “For his [God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:21-25).
Nothing has changed since the old paganism except the sophistication of its ignorance. Creationists and proponents of intelligent design can embrace biomimetics, but should be on guard against these trends that would distort it into Charlie worship or pagan Nature worship. By contrast, engaging in diligent biomimetics research and design is one way to honor and serve our Creator, and to say, “Thank you, Lord.”
Next headline on: Biomimetics • Marine Biology • Mammals • Cell Biology • Terrestrial Zoology • Birds • Physics • Darwin and Evolution • Intelligent Design • Education • Amazing FactsMagicians through the looking glass: wars in the kingdom of OOL (11/29/200)
The Saharan desert ant, Cataglyphis fortis, often travels hundreds of metres in zigzag paths to food, but can find its way to its nest over a different route, despite the near lack of landmarks.
There were several plausible explanations, but researchers from Germany and Switzerland1 have performed careful experiments that ruled out the use of visual clues, time or energy. For instance, the ants were tested on uniformly grey and smooth surroundings, but the ants unerringly found their way.
The evidence is consistent with ants having a built-in odometer that performs a complicated mathematical operation called path integration. That is, the journey is divided into small vectors, each with a certain length and direction, and they are added to give a ‘homing’ vector that gives the direction and total distance to the nest.
But what about bumps in the terrain, which would be like ‘hills’ and ‘valleys’ to the ant, and cause the ants to walk further than on totally flat ground? To find out, the researchers trained groups of 21 ants on trails with many symmetrical tall hills and deep valleys (to an ant’s scale) to locate a food source that would take them 8.7 m to walk, but which was only 5.2 m of ground (horizontal) distance away. Then they transformed the intervening terrain to a flat surface. The ants then walked a far shorter distance which was very close to the ground distance.
And vice versa, when 17 ants were trained on flat terrain to find a food source 5.2 m away, and the terrain then transformed into hills and valleys, the ants walked a distance very close to the distance (8.7 m) that equates to the ground distance.
The experimenters ruled out the possibility that the ants were using only the uphill (or only the downhill) paths by performing similar tests on asymmetric hills.
A U-shaped channel arranged in a saw-tooth pattern (top) was the basis for this experiment. Ants were trained to forage over this simulated ‘hilly’ terrain to a food source located at the end (middle). When put on simulated flat terrain, the ants walked a shorter distance equivalent to that of the projection of the ‘hilly’ terrain onto a fictitious horizontal plane before hunting for food (bottom).
The ants probably use the internal sense called proprioception, which animals and humans use to determine the location of their body parts. Ants probably measure slopes by the same means as they sense gravity, i.e. by proprioceptors on various joints between moving parts. These are a number of hairplates, and there may be some backup design so one might take over another’s function if it is surgically removed. This makes it hard to determine the exact mechanisms involved in precisely determining ground distance.
The alternative mechanism to horizontal projection is the even more elaborate three-dimensional path integration, which the researchers plan to investigate. One way suggested would be by training ants to find food at the end of a ramp, then testing them on terrain with a totally vertical channel, where the horizontal projection is zero, at the end of a completely horizontal channel. If horizontal projection is correct, then they would ignore the vertical channel and search at the end of the horizontal channel corresponding to the ground distance. Only if they are performing 3D integration should they climb up the vertical channel to search for their food.2
If ants trained to find food at the end of a ramp (a) also hunted for food at the top rather than the base of an L-shaped section (b) this would show that ants integrate in three dimensions rather than just projecting their position onto a horizontal plane.
But the fallacy in this is assuming that a small change in a program has small changes in effect. Human programmers know that a single step in an algorithm often has far-reaching consequences, and one wrong step can often cause the program to crash. Rather, the path integration program must be fully functional or else it is likely to be totally useless.
- Wohlgemuth, S., Ronacher, B. and Wehner, R., Ant odometry in the third dimension, Nature 411(6839):795–798, 2001.
- Srinivasan, M.V., Homing in on ant navigation [comment on Ref. 1], Nature 411(6839): 752–753, 2001.
Note: There is likely an abundance of examples of amazing insects of which I am unaware.
There are several examples in my article "Evolutionists Tacitly Admit Creation" and some may be duplicated in that article and this one.
Also see Does God Think Insects are Good? and Fantastic Flight. Other articles are: Hi-tech Butterflies, Astonishing Acrobatics—Dragonflies, Dragonfly Flight and The Designer, Dragon Flies: Marvelous Flying Machines, Cold Light, The Steady Gaze of Flies: An Engineering Marvel, Ear Now: An Incredible Design in a Tiny Fly is Inspiring Engineers, Scientists Finally Copy Creator’s Super-Rubber, A Sweet Revelation, Science Copies Beetle’s Sprayer, Bombardier Idea, and The Amazing Jewel Beetle.
Insects are, in my opinion, God’s choice to demonstrate His omnipotent artistic and engineering abilities. Dr. Joseph Mastropaolo refers to God’s creation as a demonstration of vast originality”. Dr. Mastropaolo points out that, “All reproduced organisms are never identical. Even identical twins are not identical.”
My presentation (Insects: Incredible and Inspirational) reveals some of the incomprehensible facts about insects that are not on this webpage. Also, the presentation, discloses the importance of insects to the survival of all forms of life (including humans) on the earth. Below, in no particular order, are facts (from real science*) that overwhelming support the statement that we should “Thank God for Insects”.
"Vast originality represents a vast intelligence, not evolution, because endless originality requires infinite wisdom for the most difficult of intellectual tasks". (Dr. Joseph Mastropaolo)
However, bedbugs have some benefits. Pedanius Dioscorides a famous Greek physician, botanist, pharmacologist and surgeon attributed at least 11 medicinal virtues to bed bugs! Such as applying bed bugs mixed with tortoise blood to wounds. She also wrote that In Chinese medicine, the 1789 book entitled “Recipes for Restoring Life” and the 1590 book “A system of Pharmacopoeia” called for the following bed bug concoctions: “Bedbugs used for the treatment of lip-turning furuncle. Pound seven bedbugs thoroughly with some cooked rice and apply the paste on the lesion. It will effect a quick cure.” “For Stinking and gangrenous ulcers, pound some bedbugs with Shui Lung Ku ( a mixture of oil and lime used for filling cracks in a boat), mix with sesame oil and apply locally. “In case of chronic ulceration with a gaping wound, apply locally some bedbugs, the heads of which should be removed.” Bugs in the System: Insects and Their Impact on HumanAffairs by May R. Berenbaum, 1996 by Addison Wesley, Cambridge, MA Note: Bedbugs are basicly harmless, but an infestation is irritating. They were under control until liberals banned certain insecticides.
In the first serious study of the physics of fire-ant rafts, researchers have described how the insects form floating, waterproof islands.
In nature, the rafts allow fire ants to survive epic rainstorms in their native Brazil. In the lab, they could help inspire designs for small, swarming robots that might someday be used to explore inaccessible areas or even clean up oil spills.
“We were coming at it from an engineering perspective.”
The fruit fly has evolved (NOTE: See BWAH HAH HAH HAAAA!--Karl) a method for arranging the tiny, hair-like structures it uses to feel and hear the world that's so efficient a team of scientists in Israel and at Carnegie Mellon University says it could be used to more effectively deploy wireless sensor networks and other distributed computing applications.
With a minimum of communication and without advance knowledge of how they are connected with each other, the cells in the fly's developing nervous system manage to organize themselves so that a small number of cells serve as leaders that provide direct connections with every other nerve cell, said author Ziv Bar-Joseph, associate professor of machine learning at Carnegie Mellon University. The result, the researchers report in the Jan. 14 edition of the journal Science, is the same sort of scheme used to manage the distributed computer networks that perform such everyday tasks as searching the Web or controlling an airplane in flight. But the method used by the fly's nervous system to organize itself is much simpler and more robust than anything humans have concocted. They found it has qualities that make it particularly well suited for networks in which the number and position of the nodes is not completely certain. These include wireless sensor networks, such as environmental monitoring, where sensors are dispersed in a lake or waterway, or systems for controlling swarms of robots. The researchers created a computer algorithm based on the fly's approach and proved that it provides a fast solution to the MIS problem. (In the computing world, one step toward creating this distributive system is to find a small set of processors that can be used to rapidly communicate with the rest of the processors in the network — what graph theorists call a maximal independent set (MIS).)
Butterfly wings behind anti-counterfeiting technology
The technology is first being applied to banknotes but it also has many more practical applications, such as authenticating legal documents, retail merchandise, concert tickets, stock certificates, visas, passports, and pharmaceuticals. Landrock and Kaminska both continue their work as part of Nanotech’s scientific team. The company’s Nano-Optic Technology for enhanced Security (NOtES) product stems from an idea originating in the purest form of nature – insects using colorful markings to identify themselves. How this works is microscopic gratings composed of nanostructures interact with light to produce the shimmering iridescence seen on the Costa Rican morpho butterfly. The nanostructures act to reflect and refract light waves to produce the morpho’s signature blue wings and absorb other unwanted light. The highly advanced wing structures are the result of many millennia of evolution ( NOTE: See BWAH HAH HAH HAAAA!-- Karl) and only recently have Nanotech's scientists discovered how to reproduce these structures reliably. While others have talked about the possibility of re-creating it, Nanotech has made this a reality.
Leader-less ants make super efficient networks
Ants are able to connect multiple sites in the shortest possible way, and in doing so, create efficient transport networks, according to a University of Sydney study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface . After two hours, the ants had created networks that closely resembled both efficient solutions. They frequently created difficult Steiner Networks, adding a central hub in the three-nest treatment and two central hubs in the four-nest treatment. Dr. Latty said: "It's interesting that the ants were able to create, on a blank slate, the mathematically shortest network between multiple points. Understanding how simple organisms like ants build efficient networks can inform the design of human transportation networks."
… University of Sydney researchers have shown that the humble ant is capable of solving difficult mathematical problems. These findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, deepen our understanding of how even simple animals can overcome complex and dynamic problems in nature, and will help computer scientists develop even better software to solve logistical problems and maximise efficiency in many human industries. Finding the most efficient path through a busy network is a common challenge faced by delivery drivers, telephone routers and engineers. To solve these optimisation problems using software, computer scientists have often sought inspiration from ant colonies… Discovering how ants are able to solve dynamic problems can provide new inspiration for optimisation algorithms, which in turn can lead to better problem-solving software and hence more efficiency for human industries."
Honey bee search strategy: Robot swarms to search Mars caves
In a recent paper published in Acta Astronautica, Aron Kisdi, a University of Southampton engineer, proposes an idea of utilizing a swarm of robots to search large areas of Mars and the caves which current robots have been unable to explore. The theory behind Kisdi’s robots incorporates the idea of quorum sensing, similar to that used by honey bees. Quorum sensing is a type of decision-making process used by groups to coordinate behavior and can be seen with honey bees when worker bees scout for new nest areas. Bees will leave the nest, gather information, and determine the best new location. Kisdi’s theory works on this same principle. A computer program has been created that functions in a similar way to the honey bees. This concept would be cheaper to build than the large rovers and allow for much more initial exploration, leaving the in-depth exploration for the rovers.
Beetle defence inspires University of Leeds research
The deadly defence system of a tiny African beetle has inspired award-winning research into a new generation of technology. A team of scientists from the University of Leeds have developed a technology which is based on the beetle's spray mechanism. They say it may lead to improvements in the automotive and health industries. The project took five years to develop from first concept to prototype. It said it could inspire new types of nebulisers, needle-free injections, fire extinguishers and powerful fuel injection systems. The university's professor of thermodynamics and combustion theory, Andy McIntosh, who led the research team, said: "Nobody had studied the beetle from a physics and engineering perspective as we did, and we didn't appreciate how much we would learn from it."
Butterfly-Inspired Patch May Alert Soldiers to Brain Injury
A color-changing patch modeled after the iridescent wings of butterflies could give soldiers a heads-up on the severity of injuries sustained on the battlefield. About the size of a binder hole in loose-leaf paper, the patch is made of 3D photonic crystals — tiny structures whose geometry can be manipulated to control the way it interacts with light. Like butterfly wings, these crystals get their color from light bouncing off of the nanoscale lattice. The patches could be worn on a soldier’s helmet to provide medical personnel with blast-exposure information to help them diagnose brain injury — a typical injury sustained in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which are difficult to diagnose with today’s imaging technology , the researchers say. Yang also envisions uses for the patch beyond the battlefield. For example, it could also help gauge injury in football players and cyclists, or help diagnose damage to cell phones, computers , and other electronics.
Firefly Glow: Scientists Develop a Hydrogen Peroxide Probe Based on Firefly Luciferin
A unique new probe based on luciferase, the enzyme that gives fireflies their glow, enables researchers to monitor hydrogen peroxide levels in mice and thereby track the progression of infectious diseases or cancerous tumors without harming the animals or even having to shave their fur. "The fact that in nature fireflies use the luciferin enzyme to communicate by light inspired us to adapt this same strategy for pre-clinical diagnostics," Chang says.
Air Force flight control improvements
Flying insects' altitude control mechanisms are the focus of research being conducted in a Caltech laboratory under an Air Force Office of Scientific Research grant that may lead to technology that controls altitude in a variety of aircraft for the Air Force. "This work investigates sensory-motor feedback mechanisms in the insect brain that could inspire new approaches to flight stabilization and navigation in future insect-sized vehicles for the military," said Dr. Willard Larkin, AFOSR program manager who's supporting the work of lead researcher, Dr. Andrew Straw of Caltech.
The research is being conducted in a laboratory where scientists are studying how flies use visual information to guide flight in natural environments. Straw noted that the flies don't have access to GPS or other radio signals that may also be unavailable in, for example, indoor environments. "However, with a tiny brain they are able to perform a variety of tasks such as finding food and mates despite changing light levels, wind gusts, wing damage, and so on," he said. "Flies rely heavily on vision."
In their next phase, the scientists will study more sophisticated flight behaviors, asking if the fly creates a long-lasting neural representation of its visual surroundings or whether flight is only controlled by fast-acting reflexes.
Insect eyes inspire improved solar cells
The eyes of moths, which allow them to see well at night, are also covered with a water-repellent, antireflective coating that makes their eyes among the least reflective surfaces in nature and helps them hide from predators in the dark. Mimicking the moth eye's microstructure, a team of researchers in Japan has created a new film, suitable for mass-production, for covering solar cells that can cut down on the amount of reflected light and help capture more power from the sun. They estimate that the films would improve the annual efficiency of solar cells by 6 percent in Phoenix and by 5 percent in Tokyo. Yamada and his colleagues found the inspiration for this new technology a few years ago after they began looking for a broad-wavelength and omnidirectional antireflective structure in nature. The eyes of the moth were the best they found.
Researchers use the common cockroach to fine-tune robots of the future
Prof. Amir Ayali of Tel Aviv University's Department of Zoology says the study of cockroaches has already inspired advanced robotics. Robots have long been based on these six-legged houseguests, whose nervous system is relatively straightforward and easy to study. But until now, walking machines based on the cockroach's movement have been influenced by outside observations and mainly imitate the insect's appearance, not its internal mechanics. He and his fellow researchers are delving deeper into the neurological functioning of the cockroach. This, he says, will give engineers the information they need to design robots with a more compact build and greater efficiency in terms of energy, time, robustness and rigidity. Such superior robotics can be even used to explore new terrain in outer space.
An army of robotic insects
Cockroaches are not the only insects that have captured the scientific imagination. Projects that highlight both the flight of the locust and the crawling of the soft-bodied caterpillar are also underway. Locusts are amazing flyers, Prof. Ayali notes. Scientists are studying both their aerodynamic build and their energy metabolism for long-distance flights. Recordings of their nervous systems and simultaneous video tracking to observe the movement of their wings during flight can be expected to lead to better technology for miniscule flying robots. As for caterpillars, engineers are trying to recreate in soft-bodied robots what they call the creatures' "endless degrees of freedom of movement." "Caterpillars are not confined by a stiff structure — they have no rigid skeletons," says Prof. Ayali. "This is exactly what makes them unique."
Robots imitate honey bees for aircraft aerobatics
Australian scientists have developed a novel autopilot that guides aircraft through complex aerobatic manoeuvres by watching the horizon like a honey bee. Allowing aircraft to quickly sense which way is "up" by imitating how honeybees see, engineers and researchers at The Vision Centre, Queensland Brain Institute and the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering at The University of Queensland have made it possible for planes to guide themselves through extreme manoeuvres, including the loop, the barrel roll and the Immelmann turn, with speed, deftness and precision. “Our system, which takes 1000ths of a second to directly measure the position of the horizon, is much faster (than gyroscopes) at calculating position, and more accurate.” “We have created an autopilot that overcomes the errors generated from gyroscopes by imitating a biological system – the honeybees,” says Professor Mandyam Srinivasan. “Although we don't fully understand how these insects work, we know that they are good at stabilising themselves while making complicated flight manoeuvres by watching the horizon.”
Dragonfly wings inspire micro wind turbine design
THE way a dragonfly remains stable in flight is being mimicked to develop micro wind turbines that can withstand gale-force winds. Obata and his colleagues have used this finding to develop a low-cost model of a micro wind turbine whose 25-centimetre-long paper blades incorporate bumps like a dragonfly's wing...
‘Evolution has been observed. It’s just that it hasn’t been observed while it’s happening.’