Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Growing nanotechnology like nature does

In this TED talk, Angela Belcher describes programming bacteria and viruses to grow batteries, solar cells and other nano technology at room temperature and pressure. Emulating the way abalone and other animals create shells using calcium, carbonate and proteins, the different virus-infected bacteria can produce nano structures and join them together.

This talk reminds me of this part in the Life, The Universe and Everything:The Cosmic Conclusion to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams:

It was a large mattress, and probably one of quite high quality. Very few things actually get manufactured these days, because in an infinitely large Universe such as, for instance, the one in which we live, most things one could possibly imagine, and a lot of things one would rather not, grow somewhere. A forest was discovered recently in which most of the trees grew ratchet screwdrivers as fruit. The life cycle of ratchet screwdriver fruit it quite interesting. Once picked it needs a dark dusty drawer in which it can lie undisturbed for years. Then one night it suddenly hatches, discards its outer skin which crumbles into dust, and emerges as a totally unidentifiable little metal object with flanges at both ends and a sort of ridge and a sort of hole for a screw. This, when found, will get thrown away. No one knows what it is supposed to gain from this. Nature, in her infinite wisdom, is presumably working on it.
No one really knows what mattresses are meant to gain from their lives either. They are large, friendly, pocket-sprung creatures which live quiet private lives in the marshes of Squornshellous Zeta. Many of them get caught, slaughtered, dried out, shipped out and slept on. None of them seem to mind and all of them are called Zem. 

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