Today’s equation: Biology + Robotics = Awesome
Scientists Use Cells to Fold Origami
Picture a gingerbread house. Without the frosting that glues its walls and windows together, it would be nothing but a disorganized pile of cookies and candy. The “glue” makes it all possible.
So it is with our bodies. We are a carefully organized cellular panoply of dozens of cell types, from muscle to bone to nerve, but without connective tissue, we’d just be a pile of cellular mush. Much of our cellular glue is created by a type of cell called a “fibroblast”, which secretes a sticky web called the extracellular matrix that those muscle, bone, nerve and other cells use as a sort of structural scaffold. These fibroblasts, as anyone who’s ever seen them under a microscope knows, are known for their spiky, tentacle-like arms, allowing them to move and squeeze into our the nooks and crannies that make up … well, the inside of us.
The fibroblast cells in this video were placed on the hinges of microscopic origami patterns. When their sticky, prehensile arms pull on those hinges, they are able to fold them into 3D shapes, using the same structural goop and scaffolds that hold our bodies together!
Very cool. Let’s see them make a crane.
Ever wonder how ladybirds’ wing unfold?
Even more of an engineering feat than I imagined.
I heart diatoms.
Diatoms are single celled photosynthetic algae that are abundant in Earth’s lakes and oceans. These organisms create intricate nano-scale glass exoskeletons that protect their cellular interiors and focus specific wavelengths of light into photosynthetic protein complexes. Clusters of silica tubes on the surface form pores that are used to gather nutrients from the environment. The mechanism by which diatoms construct such beautiful symmetrical shells remains a mystery.
Image Credit: James Tyrwhitt-Drake, University of Victoria.
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Erasmus Darwin’s Zoonomia doesn’t get the popular recognition it deserves. Maybe this won’t bring it to the big time, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.
Typographical scientific artwork by Dr Stephen Gaeta
- Extraocular: Text from Zoonomia, the 1794 masterpiece of Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles), in which he attempted to catalog and explain human anatomy, pathology, and physiology, including the visual system. (SOURCE)
- Beat Poetry: Text from the seminal 1809 work of cardiologyCases of the Organic Disease of the Heart, with Dissections and Some Remarks Intended to Point Out the Distinctive Symptoms of These Diseases, by John Collins Warren. In this work, Warren describes the symptoms of 11 of his patients with heart disease as they presented in his office and, later, on his dissecting table. (SOURCE)
- Reactant: Text from the The Sceptical Chymist by Robert Boyle (1661), in which he provided the foundations of modern chemistry by proving that matter is comprised of individual atoms. (SOURCE)
- Transgenic: Text from Chromosome 1 of the human genome.
[found by Atavus]
I love these more than you love these. I’ll bet you money.
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Just so you know, most directors consult some sort of actual scientists to get the details of their superhero movies right. The Amazing Spider-Man went a step further, to design an equation for a chalkboard scene that would describe how cell regeneration and mortality would work.
Because if you don’t get the scientific details right, Neil deGrasse Tyson will find you, ridicule you, and make you change your movie.