I Need a Miracle Every Day: Fishy Sensors...

My grandmother Catherine McCaig lived to be 105 years old, and worked until she was 99. She cried when she saw the beginning of James Cameron's Titanic because she lost her best friend Bridget on the voyage. I remember talking with her about her first ride in a car and she said, "We thought we'd just fall apart if we went twice as fast as a horse. It was thrilling." It may be because she was such a big part of my life I don't think I've ever lost my sense of wonder. Every time I take off in an airplane, I can't believe it actually works, and when I start my car up on a cold day in Boston, it amazes me that it is possible to get something as complex as an internal combustion engine, which is at zero degrees Fahrenheit to create thousands of little explosions right on queue. So, it occurred to me that I have the great good fortune in my life and work to see mind blowing things on a regular basis and I'll start posting things that strike my fancy under the title "I Need a Miracle Everyday". Below we have an illustration from the New Scientist magazine which shows how two researchers, Doug Jones from University of Illinois Champagne-Urbana, and Chang Liu of Northwestern took inspiration from the fact that fish have a lateral sensor line which allows them to sense the direction, pressure and flow of water which allows them to do many things -- including swim in coordinated schools even in the dark. As the report in the New Scientist, the duo created a "neuromast by adding boron to a 500-micrometre-long silicon hair to create a stress-sensitive resistor. As the hair bends in response to water motion, its resistance changes, allowing the force of the water's movement to be calculated." See the illustration below.

The early issue that they are tackling is that this technology helps to create robots who can sense in situations where the device is too close to something to use sonar and the water too murky for visual navigation. How cool. I imagine that this type of sensor will enable all kinds of innovations because it is local and self-organizing. Any technology that helps to decentralize intelligence and coordination -- tends to grow!

Policing Google and Other Fun Topics: Ben Edelman

Can the USA Regain its Love of Speed?