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Wednesday, March 29, 2023 - 7 Nisan 5783
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The Hand that Created These
The tarsier monkey, which dwells in the rain forests of Indonesia, is a small animal with huge eyes. Its eyes are optimized to see in dim lighting, which allows it to track and capture its prey, large grasshoppers. Its eyes are so big that it cannot move them. To compensate, its neck is extraordinarily flexible and can rotate nearly 180 degrees. Scientists are now using some of the ideas they learned from tarsier vision to developing better drones and nighttime vision goggles.

This is one example of biomimicry, applying ideas from the natural world to technological challenges. It is based on the principle that “life begets life,” that creatures develop their own means to survive. If an idea has proven success in the natural world, why not adapt it for the technological world as well?

The temperature in Antarctica can drop to -90C, yet the penguins emerge from the freezing waters warm and dry. Ice does not form on their feathers. Researchers looked at the penguin’s feathers under an electron microscope and discovered that it contains tiny pores that trap air and make the surface extremely water repellent. They used this finding to develop a coating for aircraft that resists frost, which is a significant factor in flight accidents.

Brain researchers recently found that the “nose” of fruit flies can detect the smell of poisons and explosives. “Electronic noses” on the market today have only two to 18 sensors, while most fruit flies have 50 to 300 biological sensors that can detect odors in microseconds—1000 times faster than manufactured ones.

After many decades of tinkering with nature and causing irreparable damage, it is refreshing to see that scientists have learned to treat nature with respect. When we carelessly destroy an organism or bio system, we are interfering with G-d’s own plan for creation. The fifth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom Dov Ber Schneerson, once admonished his son for carelessly picking a leaf of a tree and shredding it as he walked along. “In what way is your ‘I’ greater than the ‘I’ of this leaf?” he asked. The developing field of biomimicry is finally repairing the damage caused by that terrible mistake.

The redemption of science begins with the field of biomimicry, with scientists finally giving due credit to the enormous divine wisdom that can be found within creation. This in turn will lead to a thirst to hear the wisdom of G-d not only as it pertains to the animal, plant or inanimate kingdom, but G-d’s direct message to humanity, through the teachings of Torah.


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