Nature

[box]This post originally appeared on the FTMF.info planning blog.[/box]

In this post, let’s explore the link between the twin worlds of microbiology and creative thought, drawing inspiration from three brilliant scientific discoveries. Labcoats on, people!

1. Sponges

If a sea sponge (phylum porifera) is forced through a sieve to disintegrate it down to its cellular level, those cells, if left alone, will recombine into a sponge again:

Lesson: some ideas only make sense as a whole – passing them through a ‘sieve test’ can reveal whether they were ever meant to be, while others may naturally merge together.

2. Slime Molds

A single-celled slime mold (physarum polycephalum) can solve mazes, mimic the layout of man-made transportation networks and choose the healthiest food from a diverse menu – and all this without a brain or nervous system:

Lesson: deploy resources efficiently – really smart solutions often arise naturally, yet knowing what’s best still requires lots of prior research. But hey, if a slime mold can do it…

3. Artificial Jellyfish

Scientists have created an artificial jellyfish using silicone and muscle cells from a rat’s heart. The synthetic creature, dubbed a medusoid, looks like a flower with eight petals. When placed in an electric field, it pulses and swims exactly like its living counterpart:

Lesson: even the most difficult concept can be somehow ‘brought to life’ – be it in a new context, through the addition of a couple of key ingredients, or sheer appliance of science!

Nature in Numbers

Saw something pretty cool on Boing Boing just now – a short film demonstrating how mathematic principles manifest in nature. It’s something you’ll all have heard about, but the below actually shows you the background, and does so in a really lovely way.

Top marks to filmmaker Cristobal Vila for making Fibonacci, Golden and Angle Ratios, Delaunay Triangulation and Voronoi Tessellations look so darn good.

His website goes further into exploring these ideas:

This section is meant to be a complement to the animation, in order to better understand the theoretical basis that you can find behind the sequences. It was also, more or less, the appearance of the screenplay in the days that I was planning this project.

And goes on to provide great explanations like this:

  • We add a first red seed
  • Turn 137.5º
  • Add a second green color seed and make the previous traveling to the center.
  • Turn other 137.5º
  • Add a third ocher seed and make the previous traveling to the center, to stay side by side with the first one
  • Turn other 137.5º…
  • …and so on, seed after seed, we will obtain gradually a kind of distributions like the ones you have in the following figures

This leads to the characteristic structure in which all seeds are arranged into a sunflower, which is as compact as possible. We have always said: nature is wise 🙂

Lovely.