Nature & Science

happy_turing__s_day_by_fractalrat1.jpgA three pound machine-our human brain-has been trying to invent a machine similar to itself.Something that can talk, walk and act like a human in every sense,even think like a human.To create in the lab something that nature has taken millennia to evolve is more than a pipe dream for those in the field of artificial intelligence.

Four billion years of R & D, and have often solved the problems in novel ways that are both high performance and inherently environmentally friendly. Natural materials, structures and systems have come into being through the powerful optimization process known as natural selection. Copying the ideas of others is usually frowned upon, but when it comes to the work of Mother Nature, scientists are finding they can use nature as a template.

When scientists developed an efficient device for emitting light, they had not realized butterflies had been using the same method for 30 million years. Fluorescent patches on the wings of African swallowtail butterflies work in a very similar way to high emission light emitting diodes.(LEDs). Swallowtails have dark wings with bright blue or blue-green patches. The wing scales on these swallowtails act as 2D photonic crystals, infused with pigment and structured in such a way that they produce intense fluorescence. Pigment on the butterflies’ wings absorbs ultra-violet light which is then reemitted, using fluorescence, as brilliant blue-green light. The electric eel’s use of radar is well known, as is the acoustic radar or ‘sonar’ of the bat. Gamov and Harris , writing in the IEEE journal SPECTRUM on the subject of this book- what engineers can learn from nature – -mentioned as an example of their main theme:

In most biological systems, adapt or perish means just that. Thus, the bat had to learn to survive in the environment of a dark cave , and under this pressure not only evolved a mechanism of echo location but also what appears to be a system of acoustical holography.

It took 120 years before echo depth sounding became well known and a classic paper on the bat’s sonar was re-discovered.

Nature long ago solved the problem of making electronic devices on a molecular-scale and we’re now beginning to learn how to do things the way Nature does.

The ability to use individual molecules as functional electronic devices is a much coveted prize in the computer industry because of the potential for dramatically shrinking the silicon-based microelectronic systems of today. As electronic devices are reduced in size to a nanometer scale, the atoms with which silicon must be doped, will eventually begin to move about, resulting in poor or uneven performances. Nanoscale sizes should not pose a problem for devices based on single large molecules of carbon as the atoms in these molecules are covalently bonded and therefore firmly locked in place. Taking advantage of a phenomenon that is largely viewed as a problem by the electronics industry, researchers created a separation between two gold electrodes that was about one nanometer (one billionth of a meter) across. This tiny gap could accommodate the insertion of a single buckyball in order to create a molecular-sized electronic device. Buckyballs are so tiny that, as transistors, they only permit one electron at a time to move through them. This opens the door to the study of single-electron transport effect.

Earlier the ear was a harp – a system of resonators allowing the analysis of complex sounds. Later it became a telephone (with the auditory nerve as a cable and the frequency analyzer hidden in the brain) and more recently was found to embody such technical novelties as impedance matching, frequency analysis and automatic gain control. The brain once, thought of as a telephone exchange and then as an electronic computer, now turns out to be a holographic data storage system.

What will be next? Apparently, we have to wait for the pure scientists to tell us.