Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Biomimetics: Learning from Nature (continued)

Peregrine Falcon in flight

Electric eels: When an eel locates its prey, it opens a series of cellular gates, through which ions (potassium) flow. This movement of charged ions creates an electric current when the eel is in a conductive solution, such as water. Researchers have experimented with artificial proto-cells that, like real living cells, have membranes that control the flow of ions similar to the eel’s. As reported in Advanced Materials (see News in Science), the researchers were able to generate electricity, which could eventually be used in a new battery design.

Insects and Aerodynamic Maneuverability: There are insects that are capable of taking off backwards, flying sideways, and landing upside down. The physiological and anatomical specialization of these insects is poorly understood. However, the greatest puzzle is how flapping wings can generate enough force to keep the insect in the air. Wind tunnel tests of insects show that simple flapping of the insect wing does not generate enough force to let the animal fly. Their secret was found to lie in the fact that insect wings add two rotational mechanisms that provide a potent force for the insect to remain aloft (Science 18, June 1999, Vol 284, pp 1954-1960).

The Peregrine Falcon is considered the fastest creature in the animal kingdom. When the falcon locates its prey while in flight, it tucks in its wings and dives towards the prey at speeds exceeding 150 miles an hour! With that speed, the falcon reaches its prey with precision, catches it with its claws and takes off. This bird’s flight skills are the envy of pilots, who are limited to rigid-wing aircraft. In a previous Blog on feathers, we described the unusual aerodynamic features of bird feathers, which are partly responsible for the falcon’s speed. The Goshawk on the other hand, can fly through dense forests inches above the ground with great speed and such delicate maneuverability that its wings do not touch the trees through which it flies. This allows the hawk to literally cruise through a challenging obstacle course with ease. ThIs 3 minute video (Peregrine Falcon & Goshawk in flight) shows these two hawks in flight, captured by Australian photographers. The capabilities of these creatures demonstrate again God’s design and care for His Creation, the wonder of his works.  

Psalm 104:24 speaks of God’s special care for all his of creatures. “In wisdom you made them all, the earth is full of your creatures”. As we study nature, we find many designs that can be mimicked by engineers and scientists in their work. It would be wonderful if these scientists would also give credit and honor to the ‘patent holder’ – God.

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