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Biomimetics: Science for Now

first_imgDo you want science that makes a difference in our lives?  Look at real plants and animals with real solutions to practical problems.  That’s where researchers are making amazing discoveries with practical spinoffs.Shellfish materials:  Strong, lightweight structures are coming, thanks to the imitation of oysters and shellfish.  PhysOrg reported that researchers at the University of Helsinki are coming closer to manufacturing nacre-inspired polymers that are unbreakable, fire resistant, and gas free.  Such materials are a dream in electronics; they can insulate and are strong and flexible.  Lightweight, too – and they self-assemble when you get the conditions right.    The press release ended with a quizzical juxtaposition of ideas: “The new material is an example of biomimetics, which aims to mimic the most attractive materials in the nature, but in simpler terms.”  The idea is that nature’s solutions are much more complex than ours.  But then one of the scientists was quoted saying it all just evolved:“The materials scientists are fascinated by the delicacy of natural materials.  The properties have been developed due to the lengthy process of evolution and in some cases extraordinary properties relevant to technology can be identified.  In addition to nacreous shells, the materials scientists explore for example mimics for silk, jaws, and bones.”Leaf mimic:  “Blueprint for ‘Artificial Leaf’ Mimics Mother Nature” announced Science Daily.  A presentation by Chinese scientists to the American Chemical Society showed how “design of artificial photosynthetic systems based on biological paradigms” is leading toward “a working prototype to exploit sustainable energy resources.”  This is a long-sought goal: to imitate the energy-efficient harvesting of sunlight achieved by plants and algae.  The scientists actually took “a closer look at the leaf” for ideas.  “Not too surprisingly, the structure of green leaves provides them an extremely high light-harvesting efficiency.”  The next step was clear: “The scientists decided to mimic that natural design in the development of a blueprint for artificial leaf-like structures.”    The word “design” was as ubiquitous in this article as the word evolution was scarce: e.g., “design of novel artificial solar energy transduction systems based on natural paradigms, particularly based on exploring and mimicking the structural design.  The last sentence was a virtual manifesto for biomimetics: “Nature still has much to teach us, and human ingenuity can modify the principles of natural systems for enhanced utility.”Bee nose:  We all know about the sniffers of dogs, but did you know honeybees are their equals?  PhysOrg reported about how the Defense Department is not just imitating bees, but training them for active duty.  Maybe you never heard that “In 2010, bee training in the fields of defense and security, medicine, food, and building industries is big business.”  Bees are smaller, cheaper and easier to transport than dogs.  Honeybees with diodes on their backs are now being used to sniff out TNT.  Let them find the landmines, the military says, so that human farmers don’t have to find them “the ugly way.”Green materials:  As an environmentally-conscious citizen, you would like to reduce the use of styrofoam cups going into landfills, wouldn’t you?  Well, thank a seashell for finding a better use for them, said Science Daily.  “Scientists have made synthetic ‘sea shells’ from a mixture of chalk and polystyrene cups – and produced a tough new material that could make our homes and offices more durable.”  PhysOrg quipped, “Strength is shore thing for sea shell scientists.”    And where did they get the idea?  “A team of materials scientists and chemists have taken inspiration from sea shells found on the beach to create a composite material from dissimilar ‘ingredients’.”  That’s how sea shells do it: they intersperse mineral crystals with proteins in ways that provide crack resistance and structural strength.  Researchers at University of Manchester are boasting as if they did the hard part: “We have replicated nature’s addition of proteins using polystyrene, to create a strong shell-like structure with similar properties to those seen in nature.”  Shouldn’t the shell – or the shell-maker – get the design credit?Spider silk:  Spiders are the “masters of materials science” PhysOrg reminded us, and “ scientists are finally catching up.”  Attempts to understand and imitate spider silk have been reported here many times.  “Silks are among the toughest materials known, stronger and less brittle, pound for pound, than steel,” the article recapped.  “Now scientists at MIT have unraveled some of their deepest secrets in research that could lead the way to the creation of synthetic materials that duplicate, or even exceed, the extraordinary properties of natural silk.”  That leads to an interesting philosophical question.  If humans create it, is it natural?    What the MIT team found out is that the arrangement of the silk elements makes the difference.  The protein components known as beta sheets “are arranged in a structure that resembles a tall stack of pancakes, but with the crystal structures within each pancake alternating in their orientation,” Markus Buehler, an MIT civil engineering professor, explained (see picture in the Science Daily article).  “This particular geometry of tiny silk nanocrystals allows hydrogen bonds to work cooperatively, reinforcing adjacent chains against external forces, which leads to the outstanding extensibility and strength of spider silk.”  Slight deviations in the length of the beta sheets leads to breakdown of the silk’s remarkable strength and flexibility, the team found.  Expect good things from what biomimetics is discovering:Buehler says the work has implications far beyond just understanding silk.  He notes that the findings could be applied to a broader class of biological materials, such as wood or plant fibers, and bio-inspired materials, such as novel fibers, yarns and fabrics or tissue replacement materials, to produce a variety of useful materials out of simple, commonplace elements.  For example, he and his team are looking at the possibility of synthesizing materials that have a similar structure to silk, but using molecules that have inherently greater strength, such as carbon nanotubes.    The long-term impact of this research, Buehler says, will be the development of a new material design paradigm that enables the creation of highly functional materials out of abundant, inexpensive materials.The fact that the arrangement of elements is critical to their success is reminiscent of how the properties of DNA and proteins are critically dependent on the sequence of the building blocks.  Applying this new paradigm – that it is arrangement as much or more than material – provides a whole new design pathway for inventors, thanks to the lowly garden spider.Signal in the noise:  An article in PhysOrg sounds at first like a strictly physical engineering problem of how to amplify signal in a noisy environment using a principle called stochastic resonance.  But at the end of the article, the researchers talk about designing an “artificial neuron” that mimics the signal-enhancing capabilities of nerve cells.  Artificial neurons are defined as “simple computing, logic gates.  Their actions resemble the firing of signals as they are observed between neurons,” the article explains.  The team at University of Wurzburg “believes that its devices can be thus used in the future to mimic neuron action in artificial networks and to serve as sensors for signals usually hidden under the noise.”    With neural networks in mind, their plans will imitate neurons even more.  In the brain, “actions cascade based in part on the noise of individual spiking neurons,” the article explained.  “This incredible sensitivity makes the devices an ideal candidate for quantum computing.”   Quantum computing has been a design goal for years.  Finding ways to maximize signal in a noisy environment, as neurons do, would allow circuits to keep getting smaller and more efficient despite increases in thermal noise that accompanies shrinking size.Snail armor:  Snails seem good for little more than amusing children, annoying gardeners and making the French say Bon appetit.  But they’re good for something else, reported Live Science: inspiring a new generation of body armor.  The article is an interview with Christine Ortiz, a materials scientist at MIT, who is studying a snail that lives near hydrothermal vents 2.5 miles deep in the Indian Ocean.  Athletes or soldiers might benefit from what she is learning: “Understanding the physical and mechanical properties of the snail could improve load-bearing and protective materials in everything from aircraft hulls to sports equipment.”  Other beneficiaries of snail-inspired materials could be emergency responders, firefighters, police officers, aircraft designers, commercial designers, and recipients of prosthetics coming out of regenerative medicine.  The interview pointed to a NSF press release from January about “the fantastic armor of a wonder snail.”Dr. Ortiz was asked how she got into her field: “I was always fascinated, since I was a small child, by nature, biology, evolution, and related fields.”  Was one of those fields intelligent design?  Probably not, but she feels one of the most important qualities of a scientist is “The ability to see the unexpected in data, to fearlessly explore areas outside of one’s comfort zone, and to draw on and link to bodies of work in other fields, regardless of vocabulary and language barriers.”  Follow that advice consistently and you never know where your world view might end up.Our entries on the imitation of nature are valuable in multiple ways (see 03/06/2010 and the other 200+ entries on biomimetics over the years).  For one, it is simply fascinating how animals and plants do what they do.  That’s why the Biomimetics and Amazing tags often go together.  In addition, these reports provide our readers a wide-ranging education in biology, physics, engineering, and even philosophy of science.  Think, too, of the teachable moments they provide for parents wanting to inspire their precocious youngsters with the wonders of nature and the possibilities of science as a career.  For another, unlike some scientific subjects of doubtful utility, biomimetics promises really cool technologies that are likely to make a big difference in human comfort, safety, security and convenience – all with lower energy costs and less impact on the environment.  (We still want the gecko boots, the lotus windshields and the spider-man gloves).  And for a final reason, the sheer entertainment value of watching evolutionists sit on the sidelines pretending to be relevant to these efforts that are design-based from start to finish is priceless.(Visited 10 times, 1 visits 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Fernandez enjoys coaching players from other schools in NCAA All-Star

first_imgSports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Ethel Booba on hotel’s clarification that ‘kikiam’ is ‘chicken sausage’: ‘Kung di pa pansinin, baka isipin nila ok lang’ “I’m surprised of the three San Sebastian players. They can play and they just play. The same goes with St. Benilde. They really enjoyed their time even if they came from different schools,” he said, praising the attitude of San Sebastian’s Ian Valdez, Kevin Baytan, and Alvin Baetiong, as well as St. Benilde’s JJ Domingo, Edward Dixon, and Gerard Castor.With the midseason festivities now done with, Fernandez’ focus is back in the second round as San Beda returns to action against St. Benilde.“We know the second round will come on Tuesday. We’re enjoying this now and tomorrow, we’ll already focus on the second round,” he said.ADVERTISEMENT Coach Boyet Fernandez. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/ INQUIRER.netSan Beda coach Boyet Fernandez isn’t putting too much thought his victory over Topex Robinson when his Saints prevailed over the Heroes, 84-80, in the 2017 NCAA All-Star Game on Friday.“It’s a different situation. Even though Topex is coaching the other team, it’s still an All-Star game and we’re just enjoying today’s game. It’s for the fans and the students of the member schools of the NCAA,” he said.ADVERTISEMENT NATO’s aging eye in the sky to get a last overhaul Trump signs bills in support of Hong Kong protesters Biggest Pogo service provider padlocked for tax evasion Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. LATEST STORIES Fernandez was finally able to get one against Robinson, as the Saints team, made up of stars from San Beda, Letran, San Sebastian, Perpetual, and St. Benilde, escaped the late rally from the Heroes crew, comprised of standouts from Lyceum, JRU, EAC, Arellano, and Mapua.The Red Lion mentor  the rare chance to have players like Rey Nambatac, Bong Quinto, and eventual All-Star MVP Prince Eze in his team.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSSEA Games: Biñan football stadium stands out in preparedness, completionSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSBoxers Pacquiao, Petecio torchbearers for SEA Games opening“They’re really good. You know them when you’re facing against them, but once you coach them, you can really see their basketball IQ,” he said.Fernandez was also caught by surprise with how the unheralded players from the Golden Stags and the Blazers worked hard in practice. Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss PLAY LIST 02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games Hotel says PH coach apologized for ‘kikiam for breakfast’ claim Celebrity chef Gary Rhodes dies at 59 with wife by his side MOST READ View comments PBA: Globalport stuns TNT Robredo should’ve resigned as drug czar after lack of trust issue – Panelo For the complete collegiate sports coverage including scores, schedules and stories, visit Inquirer Varsity. Lacson: SEA Games fund put in foundation like ‘Napoles case’last_img read more

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Sehwag consults his doctor in Delhi

first_imgIndia opener Virender Sehwag on Tuesday consulted his personal physician for a rib injury he suffered during a practice session last week.Sehwag took a day’s break from training after being hit by a local bowler at the nets last Friday.Though it is not a major injury, the dashing batsman is not taking any chances keeping in mind the upcoming matches in the ongoing World Cup , sources claimed.Sehwag’s fitness has been a cause for concern for the Indian team management of late.The batsman, who hurt his left knee while attempting a cut shot in the first match against Bangladesh in Mirpur, is also carrying a mild shoulder injury that has prevented him from bowling.He scored 35 in Sunday’s dramatic tie against England and was there in the field for the entire duration. India take on Ireland in Bangalore on Sunday and they are not taking any chances in the game after Ireland beat England in a high-scoring game on Friday.- With PTI inputslast_img read more

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Shelter Me Film Proceeds To Go To Charity

first_imgEvery year, 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized in the United States. But groups across the country are working with their local shelters to get more people involved to help these homeless animals. Their stories are told in the inspiring film, SHELTER ME, which premieres at Redbox kiosks this week.All proceeds from SHELTER ME rentals between April 23rd through April 29th will benefit Ellen DeGeneres’ Halo Pet Foundation, whose mission is to enhance the well-being of pets and the people who love them. This unprecedented partnership will help to raise funds to help shelter pets and educate people about rescue.SHELTER ME can be found at Redbox here.“I believe that by working together, we can find good homes for the millions of homeless and abandoned pets out there,” says Ellen DeGeneres.“We’re honored to support the Halo Pet Foundation and everything they do to promote the well-being of pets and their owners,” said Anne Saunders, president of Redbox. “We hope all pet lovers take the opportunity to watch ‘SHELTER ME’ this week, and in the process, help us contribute to this important cause.”SHELTER ME is hosted by Katherine Heigl (Grey’s Anatomy, Knocked Up) and sponsored by talk-show host Ellen’s natural pet food company Halo, Purely for Pets. The film celebrates shelter pets with positive and uplifting stories and shows how people’s lives are improved when they adopt these animals.SHELTER ME, which is distributed by Virgil Films, focuses on how shelter pets are helping war veterans cope with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Filmmakers also go inside a women’s prison, where inmates train shelter dogs to become service animals for people with disabilities. And we see the journey of two stray dogs, from the day they are picked up on the streets and brought to a shelter until the day they become beloved family pets.SHELTER ME, which was produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Steven Latham (NOVA: Saved by the Sun, TED: The Future We Will Create), is about second chances, hope, helping others and making a difference – and about how dogs are truly man’s best friend.Source:PR Newswirelast_img read more

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