Michael Pawlyn: Using nature’s genius in architecture


How can architects build a new world of sustainable beauty? By learning from nature. At TEDSalon in London, Michael Pawlyn describes three habits of nature that could transform architecture and society: radical resource efficiency, closed loops, and drawing energy from the sun.


The Human immune system: Making computer scientists breathe life into their systems

The Human immune system is one of the most complex multi-input systems within biological systems known to us. It is living and learning system that has the memory and intelligence to ward off attacks from various pathogens. It has kept us alive for this long (with some help from antibiotics and other drugs), so it must be doing something right with respect to securing us from the real life dangers that could be potentially lethal. When one relates this scenario to the cyber world it is pretty evident that with so much high risk and sensitive information being shared via the internet, cloud systems and virtual networking it becomes important for one to have this information secure. Dry and lifeless lines of code cannot cut the deal anymore because it is written through a human source for a computer. It requires a more human code, something that learns, unlearns and relearns through evidence based algorithms, has the intelligence to keep what is helpful and reject and eliminate what is harmful…something that can think for itself without human interference and monitoring.  The smarter the security interphases become, the more efficient hackers get at breaking through those systems and cause havoc. This environment that mankind has created for itself pretty much resembles the fight between pathogens and our immune systems. Bugs try to bring us down… our super powerful immune system deconstructs the code responsible for the bugs life(DNA/protein sequences)… writes down a sequence to nuke it (Antigen-antibody response)and there we have them … Antibodies, best of the kind. The bugs too are smart, they do not want to give up that easily (everybody wants to rule the world) so they mutate, camouflage and hide, sometimes even mimic the organism that they are trying to infect. Such fine tuning in their infection tactics comes from multi attempts at attack and failure. The very fact that we as a race have not been eliminated from the face of the earth suggests that we have fought the onslaught pretty well and have the upper hand. It seems practical that any system natural or artificial should take a look at how the human immune system functions and try mimicking these steps to gain control and protect itself from foreign attack.

Computer scientist have found the human immune system very challenging to model and now taking lessons from it to produce artificial intelligence with computer security and threat modeling systems.

Check out the links below to get an introduction to the concept discussed above. It’s a small world and inter disciplinary science is going beyond life and matter.



Bioengineering materials: Siemens innovation

Surprising Symbiosis by Siemens:

Ceramics with the microstructure of trees, nanocatalysts in bacterial proteins, nerve cells on microchips—bioengineering is set to create a surpising symbiosis of nature and technology.

nerve cell

Electron micrograph of a snail nerve cell. The cell is held in place on a microchip by means of plastic studs, each of which is a mere 20 µm in size

It is a remarkably delicate architecture. Three elastic strands of collagen wind around each other in loops, forming neatly stacked and networked spiral columns that incorporate hollow spaces at regular intervals. Tiny crystals of hydroxyapatite, a mineral containing calcium phosphate, are directed to the correct locations in these spaces, where they grow and fill the gaps. The result is a living ceramic substance incorporating pores and channels where cells are anchored—in essence, a bone. The structure of the substance, a combination of soft proteins and hard minerals, lends it characteristics that at first seem contradictory. Bone is hard but not brittle, rigid but flexible. It is lightweight and porous, yet can bear considerable mechanical loads. Stable and yet constantly changing, bone can even heal itself. It is truly a wonder of nature.

In recent years, researchers have been studying the principles supporting such perfectly adapted biological structures, and materials developers are now trying to put that research to practical use. Inspired by nature’s capabilities, these experts are using cells, biomolecules and biological concepts to create new materials. “Nature has optimized its matter over millions of years—we’re trying to profit from that,” says Rainer Nies, who is working on potential applications in the field of bioengineering at Siemens Corporate Technology (CT) in Erlangen, Germany.

Researchers would like to duplicate organic materials’ precise structuring, which can be measured in nanometers (one billionth of a meter). Similarly precise synthetic materials would make it possible to further miniaturize electronic and optical components and enhance their properties. For instance, Prof. Peter Greil and his team at the University of Erlangen are using biomaterials as templates for industrial materials. In one process, Greil’s team decomposes a piece of wood in a nitrogen atmosphere at about 1,800 °C, leaving behind a skeleton of pure carbon. Liquid or gaseous silicon is then pumped into the chamber, bonding with the carbon to form silicon carbide, an extremely hard compound (see image below). The key point is that the wood’s cellular structure is preserved in a kind of “petrified” image; it’s almost impossible to produce a comparably porous ceramic material using conventional methods. Such biomorphic ceramics could someday be used as catalyst carriers, filters, high-temperature insulation or construction materials