Innovation from Nature

While watching all of the TED Talks, I was astounded by both how far science has come, as well as how much we can learn simply by observation. Many of the videos were examining smaller organisms, such as insects and parasites to see what we as humans can learn from them. Since most living things have been evolving much longer than humans have lived on Earth, it is amazing and also somewhat scary to see how they have adapted to become so ruthless, with their only goals being survival and reproduction. Also, in terms of the insects, parasites, and pollination video, nearly everything was visible by the naked eye. The behavioral patterns of bees and ants as well as the stunning footage of the 24 hour plants are all something that even the most inexperienced could see and learn themselves. Even though science seems to advancing so quickly and becoming more inaccessible, these videos showed that biology is really everywhere. Science is not something that happens in a vacuum and simple observations do not necessarily have to lead to huge scientific discoveries. There is beauty not only in the traditional sense of pretty flowers and exotic colors, but also in the order of the universe. Everything from biological processes up to behavioral patterns are not random. Although at first glance a beehive may seem like a swirling, buzzy mass, every bee has a specific job in terms of the hive and the levels of coordination and communication happening are something that humans can learn from.

In fact, science is actually getting more accessible. As shown in the CRISPR video, one just needs access to a lab in order to be able to do their own gene research. College students and even some high schoolers can use this technology. It is no longer limited to private or government labs that share little with the general population. However, one of CRISPR’s flaws is that it is not nearly as efficient as what the body can do. Any man-made process will never be the same as what our bodies are capable of. Replication will never be exact, but it is important to examine nature in order to use some of the technologies encoded by our own DNA to potentially make other mechanical processes more efficient and to make sure that our replications are as close as they can possibly be to the original. A few years ago, I watched a PBS NOVA series about “making stuff.” One of the episodes was called “Making Stuff Wilder” and it detailed the development of new innovations in science and technology that were modeled after things nature already does. A few examples included fabric made out a specific kind of fish slime, creating a robotic arm simply out of tubes and compressed air, just like an elephant’s trunk, and creating a very slippery material based off of the leaves of Pitcher plants.

We are now in the golden age of biology where there is a lot of public interest. Although this has raised some ethical debates on how far science should be able to go, it is important to keep researching and using nature as a starting point to focus on making our society as healthy and efficient as possible.

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