The spongy bones and tough-as-nails beaks of woodpeckers are inspiring a new generation of shock absorbers, potentially shielding airplane black boxes, football players and other valuable materials from the forces of impact.
De-bearded mussels are not only delicious — soon, they might improve medical implants. Scientists can now reproduce the sticky gloop that mussels use to anchor themselves to rocks, leading to a new breed of self-healing, waterproof elastic adhesives that can be used for underwater materials or even for biomedical applications.
Bats — you know we love ‘em — have a remarkable ability to turn, swirl and dive on a dime while in mid-flight, dodging obstacles and grabbing food from the air. Engineers would like to give robots and autonomous vehicles this ability, and they’re turning to bat ears for inspiration.
Bat Con 2010 could have been a decidedly depressing science meeting, with days full of papers discussing bat deaths from white-nose syndrome, wind turbines and killings by superstitious people. But not everything was doom-and-gloom.
Dolphins are elegant swimmers, but waterlily leaf beetle larvae take first place for the simplest stroke. The insect just arches its back to manipulate a basic physics principle that lets it glide across water. Now engineers have borrowed this technique to make a tiny boat that could autonomously patrol water reservoirs for months on just a watch battery.
Scientists find the stuff that makes bread oh-so-tasty also may cure everything from Lou Gehrig's disease to aging
By Dan SmithPosted 06.19.2008 at 2:29 pm 3 Comments
You know that humans have used yeast for thousands of years for baking and brewing, but did you know that it’s also prized for its applications in medical research?
The metabolic processes of yeast cells are similar to mammal cells, and since yeast reproduces quickly, experimental results can be obtained much faster than they would using animals. Yeast’s rapid reaction time has allowed scientists to put all sorts of research in fast-forward, with the aim of efficiently developing new disease treatments.
Cloning the green goo's factories for producing light-sensitive proteins could lead to more effective treatments for certain types of blindness
By Dan SmithPosted 05.23.2008 at 1:23 pm 3 Comments
What if the key to curing blindness was found in unicellular algae?
In a recent study published in the journal Nature, a group of scientists were able to restore light sensitivity to formerly blind mice using a protein extracted from algaes of the genus Chlamydomonas. The Chlamydomonas are of particular interest because they exhibit phototaxis—an ability to orient themselves toward light sources to aid in photosynthesis. Eager to understand what caused this phenomenon on a genetic level, scientists at the Max Planck institute in 2003 isolated a sequence of genes that stored the blueprints for generating light-sensitive proteins. And now, a joint team of researchers from the Friedrich Miescher Institute in Switzerland and the Harvard Medical School have recently developed a therapy that introduces these genes into the eyes of blind mice. What they observed was a dramatic behavioral change that proved the mice had regained their sensitivity to light.
Pigs not only inspire scientists via delicious, brain-sustaining pork products. See the latest pig-influenced developments in medicine and tech, from diabetes treatments to pig-urine-flavored cigarettes
By Dan SmithPosted 05.01.2008 at 5:36 pm 2 Comments
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We've got pork on the brain here this week at PopSci. Earlier today we told you about how cells from a pig's bladder helped a man regenerate part of his severed finger, and if you're a PPX player, you know we just rolled out an IPO regarding PETA's recent offering of a million dollar prize for anyone who can grow meat sans-animal in a lab, hoping to negate the necessity for livestock. However, it will probably be a while before anything created in the lab will rival the one food that we can't ever manage to stop thinking about, even for dessert—bacon.
As it turns out, pigs have been the inspiration for several other recent medical and technological innovations in the last few months.
See how scientists are learning from the most common form of life on Earth to fight cancer, produce ethanol and maybe even grow crops on the moon
By Dan SmithPosted 04.17.2008 at 4:08 pm 3 Comments
Germophobes and OCDers may want to stop reading now, or at least seriously consider only continuing with a bottle of Purell on hand—for today, were talking about bacteria, those squirmy no-see-‘ems that densely cover just about every surface imaginable here on Earth, including your own skin. However much hypochondriacal hatred the mention of them can bring about, as with other quasi-oxymorons like good cholesterol, wed be in a lot of trouble if it werent for bacteria.
The amazing lizard uses its hairy toes to defy gravity and its dynamic tail to always land on its feet if it falls. See how scientists are using the gecko's tricks to design better robots, spacesuits and—just maybe—Spiderman gloves
By Dan SmithPosted 04.04.2008 at 6:10 pm 5 Comments
Most people's knowledge of geckos doesn't extend much beyond the Cockney-tongued lizard hawking car insurance on TV. I wont go into the implausibility of these ads, the least of which being that a gecko wouldnt have a chance to survive Britains cold climate long enough to pick up an accent. They do, however, thrive abundantly in warm, tropical climates, and in total compose nearly 15% of all reptile species on Earth. If you're fortunate enough to live in gecko country, you've probably seen them climbing and crawling over just about every surface imaginable, including the ceiling.