My ideas are posted in the comments under Satarupa`s blog.

My ideas are posted in the comments under Satarupa`s blog.

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Assignment 3

The name of the system: R-selection and K-selection.

R-selection: when population density is low, organisms grow rapidly and make raw use of natural resources. K-selection: when population density is high, organism grow slowly, use natural resources more wisely to compete each other to survive.

K-selection is the good use of natural resources due to the limited resources. This could be applied in house building industry. In China, the house building industry is r-selection. The business people could acquire more land resources from the government. This makes them to build good house and apartment for rich people only. Also, The bad investing condition makes rich people not invest money into manufacture, but buying houses and apartment to rent. This is a huge amount of money which should have been used to produce living products for human daily life. The above two reason causes the big economical problem in China currently. Many newpapers and magazines in America claims Chinese government should release more land to decrease the house price. However, I do not think so. According to the K-selection principle, organisms would only use resources more wisely when the resources are limited. Business people increase the pricing because they have too much land and investiment money as their resources. According to the K-selection theory, if we can set up a economical method to limit the land source, the business people will think of how to use these limited land considerably. If at the same time we can change money flow from house market to the manufacture, business people will have limited money source and will not only build good house for rich people but also build common apartments for poor people at a lower price. This will not only make a good use of the land source without releasing more land source but also reduce the house price so that majority of people will afford a house for their family. Actually, good examples have already occur: In Guangdong province of China, people have very limited land source, and therefore, they authorized villages to build big apartments to replace their villages. In this way, people make better use of land source without invading farming land. Farmers could not afford good house on their land, which limit the building of good house on these lands but more common apartments instead, which limits the money flow from manufacture. Therefore, the excess apartments could be sold to more poor people. The profits could go not only to business people, but also to village farmers so that more people will become rich.


Madhav Gadgil and Otto T. Solbrig, The concept of r- and k- selection: evidence from wild flowers and some theoretical considerations. The American Naturalist vol. 106 NO. 947, Jan-Feb 1972.

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Assignment 2


My habitat is the surroundings around my apartment. There`s a lot of trees and grassland, many insects around and earthworms coming outside after the rain. Sometimes we can see rats, cats, and pet dogs around. Birds are plenty, but pigeons are rarely seen. I will describe the designated functions performed by the organisms in this habitat.

Protection from biota: ant (form) has a exoskeletion which protect the body. They do not have lungs and sir exchange through the small valve on the exoskeleton called spiracles. This is to protect the ant when they catch food or fight with other ants.

Leafcutter ants feed exclusively on a fungus that grows only within their colonies. They continually collect leaves which are taken to the colony, cut into tiny pieces and placed in fungal gardens. Workers specialise in tasks according to their sizes. The largest ants cut stalks, smaller workers chew the leaves and the smallest tend the fungus. Leafcutter ants are sensitive enough to recognize the reaction of the fungus to different plant material by detecting chemical signals from the fungus. If a particular type of leaf is toxic to the fungus the colony will no longer collect it (feedback systems). The ants feed on structures produced by the fungi called gongylidia. Symbiotic bacteria on the exterior surface of the ants produce antibiotics that kill bacteria that may harm the fungi(Cleaning).

These chemical signals are more developed in ants than in other hymenopteran groups. Like other insects, ants perceive smells with their long, thin and mobile antennae (Form for communication). The paired antennae provide information about the direction and intensity of scents. Since most ants live on the ground, they use the soil surface to leave pheromone trails that can be followed by other ants. In species that forage in groups, a forager that finds food marks a trail on the way back to the colony; this trail is followed by other ants, these ants then reinforce the trail when they head back with food to the colony. When the food source is exhausted, no new trails are marked by returning ants and the scent slowly dissipates (process communication flows and transportation of food). This behaviour helps ants deal with changes in their environment. For instance, when an established path to a food source is blocked by an obstacle, the foragers leave the path to explore new routes. If an ant is successful, it leaves a new trail marking the shortest route on its return. Successful trails are followed by more ants, reinforcing better routes and gradually finding the best path (protection from abiotic factors)

Earth worms appear on the surface of the ground after a big rain for mating, and go back inside the ground in the dry weather. This process is an un-packaging process for the earth which facilitate the rain water to get into the ground (process of packaging and water absorbing) It uses moisture condition to facilitate their mating process (water availability). The earth has more opportunity to be moist deep inside during the dry weather when the earth worm goes deep under the ground. This is a protection to changing weather and predators. Earthworms have the ability to regenerate lost segments. Even though this ability varies between species and depends on the extent of the damage, it could be a protection from abiotic factors such as a mechanic broke, and a protection from biotia such as predators.

Bees are pollinators and collect pollens by their attaching pollen to their fuzzy body which carries electrostatic charge. They pack the pollen into the scopa on their legs or abdomens (form for packaging). This structure facilitate bees to transport pollens for flowers. (form for transportation of materials).

Bees attack other organism in the biota by sting (form for protection from biota). They inject apitoxin into the victim, and pheromones are released from the victim. If the pheromones are near the hive, other bees will be signaled to attack the victim until it dies. (process for protection from biotia and communication) This pheromone is not easily to be washed, therefore, if the victim hide into the water, the bee will resume attack after it leaves water. When one sting happens near the hive, millions of other bees will be signaled by pheromone and keep attacking. This is a positive feedback: more sting happens, more pheromones are released and more attack will happen. (process of feedback system)

Bee Glue (proplils) is a hard resinous material derived by bees from plant juices and used to seal opening in the hives. It contains pollen, resins and waxes and large amounts of flavonoids. It is found to have antibacterial activity against commonly encountered cocci and gram-positive rods. It might be a process of cleaning for the bee hives.

Many fungi grow only after rain which generates humid conditions (form for water availability), because their mycelia is one cell layer which is easy to be dried by sunlight.  But because of this structure, it is easy for fungi to absorb nutrition from the tree. (form for absorbing) 

All the trees in this area could be considered as water purification machine: these trees are wide-lives trees. They absorb water from the soil, which contains nutrition. They release water in the form of vapor to the air which could be a kind of purified “disdilled water” (process). Grass did the same thing for this water purification system.

Local champions: earthworms and ants.

For the group assignment part, I work with Nooper and Satarupa. It is on Nooper`s blog.



G M Grange, antibacterial properties of propolis (bee glue), Journal of the royal society of medicine 1990

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assignment 1

Assignment 1: find 2 natural history that connected to engineering design.

 1. fishes uses their air bladder to control their up or down position in the water. Fish fill their bladder with air to increase the body buoyancy. It allow the fish to go upward in the water without spending extra energy to swim. Shark does not have bladder so that it has to swim to prevent sinking to the bottom of the sea. Swim bladder has a very similar engineering design in submarine. Air is store in the form of high pressure, and is released to fill the “bladder” of the submarine to increase the buoyancy.

 2. honeycomb is always a hexagon in 2-dimensional surface, and it is used in airplane due to its strength. But my focus is on the area saving feature. hexagon save the area most, in other words it use least building materials for the same area.  I am thinking whether if can be used in building of science lab. The traditional lab are rectangles, which are connected by long passage, which makes area very big. Big area makes troubles in the science labs. For example, equipments will be separate in many rooms, and some of them may be far away from each other, such as the western blot developer in this building. Another example is the energy. Labs needs a nearly constant temperature, and big area requires more electrical energy to maintain the room temperature in the labs. Big lab rooms also drives graduate students to spend more time on just running everywhere, which reduce the experimental speed. How to make the lab smaller and more proper designed so that we use less time, energy, and finish our experiments efficiently?

Here is an idea from the honeycomb: according to the picture, the lab is built in hexagons, one link to another. Hexagon can save more building materials but having the same area. In other words hexagon use space more efficiently, which makes us to use less building area, but have a faster working efficiency. For a science lab, it has many advantages as described as follows:

Area 1 will hold some public equipments, such as water bath. If all water bath are concentrated in one area, many people can use different temperature at the same time, and researchers  may reduce the number of water bath in the lab, while separation of water bath in different labs will make trouble when  researcher needs two different temperatures but only have one in his/her lab. Other similar equipments includes electrophoresis tanks and electrical sources, HPLC, masspect, temperature shaker, and 4C room. Putting cell culture cabinets or bacteria cabinets in area 1 will also facilitate people to share these equipments.

Area 2 hold different benches for different people. Traditional benches are always a long table, and one researcher may not need the whole area (just like me). This long bench also cause long running space when I need a reagent in the fridge far away from my bench. Some labs even have a big bench table in the middle, making people to running around this table to get reagents, pipet tubes, etc.  However, in a hexagon lab area, you have 6 small benches to provide enough room for reagents, and you may only need to just turn around to get what you want.

Area 3 hold offices, storage rooms, and stairs. Research scientists are working in a place where sun lights are limited, temperature is fixed, and winds are blocked. This kind of place will make people far away from the normal condition. All graduate students never forget the lunch time in front of the big window beside the stairs because it is the most beautiful time during the day are away from the lab. If area 3 can become offices for researchers, they will have a door which separate them from the lab. Then they can have a big window in the office without concerning the sunlight to destroy their chemicals. This design also eliminates the sunlight in the actual working benches.

finally, this hexagon idea from the honeycomb have another benefic, that is, it can be enlarged as many layers as people want. If you think one bench area is not enough, then ok make another layer, and you have 3 more bench areas. Technically, this increasement is almost unlimited.

This design must have many disadvantages at the same time, but as I said, this is only an idea from the honeycomb. May be we can modify it in class.

2. human inventions learn from the biology world.

saw is learned from plants with teethed leaves. According to the wikipedia, several people invent saw in different places of the world. One of the story related to biomimitics comes from an old Chinese history: The inventor`s name is Lu Ban,  famous carpenter in the Chun Qiu period. One day he went up the mountain to collect firewood. He almost fall down when he climbing up the mountain, grabbing at some grass to stop his fall. His hand is cut by the grass. He examed the grass and noticed that it had teeth along its edge. This bring him the idea to create a tool with teeth edge so that he can cut wood with easy. Finally, he invented the saw. This is probably the oldest biomimitic story from China I have ever seen.

the oar on the boat is learned from the fin of the fish. The picture Fim and Oar show the similarity of them. Fin has a big area to push water, unlike human hands. Oar is very similar, use big area in the end to push water.

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