What can we learn from nature?

What can we learn from nature?
Volume 1 Issue 2 News & Resources | July 2008

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad

School of Electrical & Electronic Eng
Universiti Sains Malaysia
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What can we learn from nature?

Human beings may be the most intelligent creature created by God, but we can surely take lessons from other living beings and nature as a whole. In fact, learning from nature is one of the important tools of development in human history. The needs to solve problems and to live comfortably, mankind has always find a way-out from virtually all problems.

In underwater research, learning from nature is also an important tool. Research into new underwater robotics locomotion, development of bio-inspired sensors, right to new energy sources; nature has the potential to assist all of us. Of course, we have to select and chose those that best fit into our problems.

Being an underwater robotics research group, we are very interested in investigating squids and fish locomotion or swimming techniques. They can move freely and can change direction abruptly without consuming so much energy and with less turbulence. The gracefulness of a squid swimming is vastly different to the motion of 6DOF vector thrusted Remotely-Operated Vehicles (ROVs). If we look from the control point of view, it brings up a lot more things to be investigated. The question of control and optimum energy usage is a very interesting topic. Currently, Central Pattern Generator (CPG) methods are being investigated in our lab. Comparison between Matsouka and Macmillen CPG oscillator techniques gave some promising indicators.

Looking into nature meant looking into a system which has been tested by time. As an example, when we talked about underwater sensor development, there are tremendous lessons that we can learn from the marine organisms, even the single-cell organism suspended in the oceans environment.

The challenge is how to model the complex biological system. We are obsessed with modeling because only through proper system modeling that we can really understand the biological system in nature. But, as we all know, modeling involves making assumptions. And in this assumption making process that we must be extra-careful, so as not to misrepresent anything.

Nowadays, Bio-inspired systems are the in-things. It is difficult not to bump into something �bio� when we read any magazines. Some say, bio-inspired system is the way forward for system design in the future. But, for this to become true, we can either wait, or do something about it. At the end, nobody is losing, and we have all to gain.

So, are you ready for something �Bio� today?