Thursday, September 12, 2013

Incredible Piece of Engineering Found with Biological Mechanical Gear

Credit: Malcolm Burrows
Scanning electron micrograph image of the gears 
Every so often you stumble across some thing that truly amazes. This is the case with an insect which for the most part probably goes totally unnoticed by most people, including me. Fortunately, there are some people out there in the world whose particular field of interest sheds light on some amazingly incredible mechanisms which demand our attention and respect for the way the Natural World has been put together. It behooves all of us irrespective of how we think or believe it all came about, to educate and replicate such mechanisms when it comes to rebuilding the Earth. This step by step and bit by bit dismantling of the Earth's living ecosystems and the  mechanisms within has got to come to a halt soon or total collapse may result which cannot be put back together. Read below here and deepen your appreciation for the work of Malcolm Burrows, a Zoologist at the University of Cambridge and the lowly Issus Nymph.
"With two diminutive legs locked into a leap-ready position, the tiny jumper bends its body taut like an archer drawing a bow. At the top of its legs, a minuscule pair of gears engage—their strange, shark-fin teeth interlocking cleanly like a zipper. And then, faster than you can blink, think, or see with the naked eye, the entire thing is gone. In 2 milliseconds it has bulleted skyward, accelerating at nearly 400 g’s—a rate more than 20 times what a human body can withstand. At top speed the jumper breaks 8 mph—quite a feat considering its body is less than one-tenth of an inch long."
"This miniature marvel is an adolescent issus, a kind of planthopper insect and one of the fastest accelerators in the animal kingdom. As a duo of researchers in the U.K. report today in the journal Science, the issus also the first living creature ever discovered to sport a functioning gear."
Read more: The First Mechanical Gear in a Living Creature  – Popular Mechanics Follow us: @PopMech on Twitter | popularmechanics on Facebook Visit us at 
Here is a photo of the Issus Nymph which is a sort of Leafhopper over on the left and this followed by a couple others clips. The article did attempt explanations for how such incredible gears came about. Some of the scenarios were a bit humorous, but still, one has to wonder. Incredibly, the gears are in the young but absent in the Adult. The explanations for this weren't exactly etched in stone, but the speculative story lines were entertaining anyway. But it is  interesting that if just one of these gear teeth break, the whole system collapses and fails. The little Adult  leafhopper will never spring again. Burrows said, "Just as a stripped transmission won’t help a Hudson-ful of Oklahoma bank robbers outrun the cops, a stripped gearbox would not help a leafhopper avoid getting eaten." Again while some of the speculations were loaded with metaphysics, the attention brought to us by the research does deepen our appreciation for the way Nature is put together.

Nature had it before Humans did ?

Antikythera mechanism
Remember the ancient analog computer designed to calculate astronomical positions ? It was recovered in 1900–1901 from the Antikythera wreck, but its significance and complexity were not understood until a century later. Jacques Cousteau even visited the wreck in 1978, but although he found new dating evidence, he did not find any additional remains of the Antikythera mechanism. The construction has been dated to the early 1st century BCE. Technological artifacts approaching its complexity and workmanship did not appear again until the 14th century CE, when mechanical astronomical clocks began to be built in Western Europe
Professor Michael Edmunds of Cardiff University, who led a November 2006 study of the mechanism, said:
"This device is just extraordinary, the only thing of its kind. The design is beautiful, the astronomy is exactly right. The way the mechanics are designed just makes your jaw drop. Whoever has done this has done it extremely carefully ... in terms of historic and scarcity value, I have to regard this mechanism as being more valuable than the Mona Lisa." 
This example of the leafhopper shows the importance of biomimetics. In the planthopper gear example, what we thought was a human invention turns out to have been scooped by an insect.  But what do you know, Nature had it first. Still, you have to wonder, did those ancient Greeks observe something already in existence ? Many many creatures and other living organisms did exist on a far grander scale than what we have in our own modern present day of the age of modern intellectual enlightenment and understanding. Still, one wonders what inspired them with this invention.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for visiting and for your comments!

I will try to respond to each comment within a few days, though sometimes I take longer if I'm too busy which appears to be increasing.