Nature Inspires Hi-Tech Design

first_imgScientists and engineers continue the gold rush to imitate nature’s solutions to problems.Enzymes: “Bio-inspired biomimetics can outperform natural coenzymes” (Science Daily). Chemists have imitated cellular catalysts and have exceeded the natural counterparts (at least for industrial redox applications).Barnacle bills: “Do we need to wipe out clingons?” (BBC News): Understanding how barnacles and mussels cling to ships and propellers might save a lot of money some day.  “I think these are incredible little micro-worlds,” Dr Raeanne Miller says, “with lots and lots of different types of creatures, each one doing their own thing to survive in some incredibly harsh environments.”Sandcastle worm secrets: “Sandcastle worms serve as inspiration for a new type of underwater adhesive” (Science Daily). This creature is another “cling-on warrior” that scientists at UCSB are analyzing for adhesive applications in medicine and other wet environments.Snake charm: “Snake gait: Science observes nature to invent new ways of moving” (Science Daily). “It has no wheels or legs or anything to help itself along, and yet it is able to move and to move quite fast. In terms of mobility, the snake is a masterpiece of engineering, and it is no coincidence that it should be studied to uncover the physics underlying its locomotion.”Salamander swimmer: “A new salamander robot has been designed that can walk, swim and turn around corners.” See the TED Talk video clip on Live Science showing the robot, and its inventor’s reasons for wanting to study animal motion, including salamanders and cats.Tree oil: “Is lignin the crude oil of the future? Maybe so, thanks to the sun and photocatalysts” (PhysOrg). Currently, lignin is a waste product of paper production, but it’s loaded with chemicals that could be useful in many applications.Electric eel watch: “Shocking! ‘Electric Eel’ Fibers Could Power Wearable Tech” (Live Science). “Stretchy fibers that mimic electric eels could be woven into clothing to power wearable technology one day, new research suggests.”Algae fashions: “Healthy and diseased marine algae inspire new designs” (BBC News). Microscope studies of algae have inspired a Scottish designer to make colorful scarves and pillows.Blind cave fish nursing: “Regulating IV infusion with innovative blind cave fish-inspired sensor” (Science Daily). How can a blind fish help humans?Inspired by the blind cave fish, researchers at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) have developed Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) flow sensor so tiny and sensitive that it can be implanted into the IV or intravenous set-up, to aid in regulating the velocity of the fluid flow with minimal intervention by the nurses, thereby reducing their workload while increasing their productivity by 30%; and significantly decreasing the complications of drug infusion via IV therapy. These sensors can also be incorporated into marine underwater robots, lending them sensitivities to wakes, akin to the blind cave fish itself, so that the robots can manoeuvre in a highly energy-efficient manner.Clam TV: “Color-Morphing Clams Could Inspire New Smartphone & TV Screens” (Live Science). With just ambient sunlight, giant clams produce an astonishing array of colors—including blues, greens, golds and, more rarely, white—by means of iridocytes. “Producing color the way giant clams do could lead to smartphone, tablet and TV screens that use less power and are easier on the eyes,” a biologist says.Beetle condenser: “Beetle-inspired discovery could reduce frost’s costly sting” (Science Daily). “In a discovery that may lead to ways to prevent frost on airplane parts, condenser coils, and even windshields, a team of researchers led by Virginia Tech has used chemical micropatterns to control the growth of frost caused by condensation…. The inspiration for the work came from an unlikely source — the Namib Desert Beetle, which makes headlines because it lives in one of the hottest places in the world, yet it still collects airborne water.”Bladderwort suction: “This plant sucks! (but how? )” (Science Daily): The lowly bladderwort has one of the fastest traps in nature. “If we can work out how the bladderwort can grab food so quickly, it could also have applications in other fields by helping us develop tools that can rapidly capture small samples of fluids. Finding out how a bladderwort sucks could possibly also lead to biomimetic technical innovations.”Plant printing: “Novel 4-D printing method blossoms from botanical inspiration” (Science Daily): Another project from Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering—”Inspired by natural structures like plants, which respond and change their form over time according to environmental stimuli, the team has unveiled 4-D-printed hydrogel composite structures that change shape upon immersion in water.” One researcher commented, “It is wonderful to be able to design and realize, in an engineered structure, some of nature’s solutions.”Plant antenna: “New fluorescent nanomaterials whose inspiration was taken from plant antenna systems” (Science Daily): From the Basque country of Spain comes this project: “These new multifunctional materials aim to imitate the photosynthetic organisms of plants. These microorganisms consist of thousands of chlorophyll molecules embedded in a protein matrix, which provides them with a specific orientation/arrangement and intermolecular distance.”Bat avoidance: “How bats recognize their own ‘bat signals’ – Researcher discovers unique mechanism bats use to overcome communication interference in the wild” (Science Daily). “The mechanism that allows individual bats to avoid noise overlap by increasing the volume, duration and repetition rate of their signals has been uncovered by a new study” at Tel Aviv University. “Unlocking the mystery of bat echo recognition may offer a valuable insight into military and civilian radar systems, which are vulnerable to electronic interference.”Science is fun again, thanks to biomimetics. Inspiration from nature’s designs is leading to well-funded projects that promise useful and even lifesaving applications. Only a few researchers toss in extraneous evolution verbiage. The real focus is on intelligent design.Teachers and speakers: get inspired from our Biomimetics Category, where you will find dozens of news stories over the last decade showing the power of design to inspire scientists and engineers. Show kids the variety of animals and plants that are inspiring awe in biologists about how they solve problems. Give them a vision of the treasure chest out there in the world waiting to be explored. Let’s raise up an army of ID-friendly researchers who can improve the world and leave Darwin in the dust. (Visited 23 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Google’s SMS internet for Uganda

first_imgThe Google SMS Health Tips response to the words “pregnant HIV”. The Google SMS Search response to the words “NEWS Michael Jackson funeral”. Mary AlexanderFind out more about using MediaClubSouthAfrica.com materialInternet giant Google has launched yet another innovative new product, this time using a fairly old technology: an SMS-based information service for people without access to computers or high-end phones in the more remote parts of Africa.Set up in collaboration with MTN Uganda, the local subsidiary of South African’s multinational cellular service provider MTN, is a suite of mobile-phone applications which will allow people to access information, via SMS, on a number of topics. These include health and agriculture, news, local weather, sport and more, as well as Google Trader, a SMS-based marketplace application.“At Google we seek to serve a broad base of people — not only those who can afford to access the internet from the convenience of their workplace or with a computer at home,” Joe Mucheru, head of Google sub-Saharan Africa, and Fiona Lee, Africa project manager, said in a blog announcing the service on Monday.With Africa having the lowest internet penetration coupled with the highest mobile growth rate – and with most of those phones having only voice and texting capabilities – the most efficient way to give people access to information is via SMS.“It’s important to reach users wherever they are, with the information they need, in areas with the greatest information poverty,” Mucheru and Lee said. “In many places around the world, people look to their phones, rather than their computers, to find information they need in their daily lives. This is especially true in Africa.”Initially launched only in Uganda, the service is effectively a limited, SMS-based form of the internet, with Google SMS Tips providing a simplified search function. Here users enter a free-form text query, which Google’s algorithms restructure to identify keywords, search a database of answers, and return the most relevant answer.Google SMS Tips includes Health Tips, which provides information on sexual and reproductive health; ClinicFinder, which helps users find a clinic near them, as well as the clinic’s telephone number and the services it offers; and Farmer’s Friend, which provides weather forecasts and information on planting, pest management and disease control.“If a pregnant woman has a question about prenatal services, she can text her question to 6001 and get a response right away,” said Rachel Payne, Google’s Uganda country manager. “Now people in any part of Uganda can easily find the information that is most critical to them.”Texting the words “pregnant HIV”, for example, produces the following SMS response: “If a pregnant woman has not got HIV/AIDS then her baby will not have HIV/AIDS. If the mother gets HIV during pregnancy her baby is at risk of getting  infected. If your partner has HIV/AIDS you could catch it from them. To prevent this ALWAYS use a condom when you have sex. If you think you might have HIV/AIDS GET TESTED.” The user may then receive additional information by selecting a number of options.Google SMS Search, which in Uganda uses the number 6006, provides information on news, sports scores, definitions, translations, currency conversions, bible texts and a lot more. Texting “Michael Jackson funeral” produces an AFP report under the headline “Jackson funeral takes shape as drug probe widens”.The third service, Google Trader, uses the number 6007 to connect buyers and sellers.“We hope to help alleviate some of the information and access to markets barriers for the poor, especially those in rural areas,” said Payne. “So, when farmers in Iganga want to sell their maize, they can list their crop on Google Trader and a miller in another trading center can find and contact them to buy their goods.”Google SMS comes out of a partnership between Google, the Grameen Foundation, the Busoga Rural Open Source and Development Initiative, the Straight Talk Foundation and Marie Stopes Uganda.It’s the result of the Grameen Foundation’s AppLab, or Application Laboratory, which has been working for more than a year to develop mobile applications for those who have limited access to information and communications technology.“This launch also represents an important milestone, as our first major initiative in Uganda, one of the newest locations where Google is setting up operations,” Payne said.“As the East African fibre optic cables begin to connect Uganda to the global internet community, it is vital that the foundation for a thriving internet economy also be established.”Do you have queries or comments about this article? Email Mary Alexander at [email protected] articlesMobile money grows in Africa Better farming with mobiles Facebook says ‘hakuna matata’ Early African fossils found SA Google Earth layer is tops Google to put Africa online MTN in new empowerment deal Useful linksGoogle SMSMTN GroupMTN UgandaGoogle BlogGoogle Africa Blog Grameen FoundationBusoga Rural Open Source and Development InitiativeStraight Talk FoundationMarie Stopes Ugandalast_img read more

The Two Kinds of Tomorrows

first_imgThere are two beliefs about tomorrows.The tomorrow that most people believe in is the tomorrow where they are different than they are today.In that tomorrow, these people are going to be the kind of person that keeps the commitments that they make to themselves. They are going to be much stronger tomorrow than they are today, and they will have greater willpower. In that tomorrow, they will longer need to be comfortable and they will consistently take the actions that today they avoid. But when tomorrow arrives, these folks find that they haven’t changed much. They hope that the next tomorrow will be better.The second kind of beliefs about tomorrow is different. The folks that believe in this tomorrow arrive there different than they are today. They are much stronger, having done the work they needed to do today in order to produce a better version of themselves for tomorrow. By exercising their willpower today, they increased it, and their capacity grows from day to day. The people who work for this kind of tomorrow sacrifice comfort today for the results that they need tomorrow. By never procrastinating and doing instead what is necessary today, the people who believe in this kind tomorrow arrive there to find themselves transformed.You can very easily run out of days to do the things that you most want to do.last_img read more