TED Conversations

Josh Mayourian

Student , Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art


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Will we ever truly be able to model nature?

My Bioelectricity professor Nina Tandon recently gave a TED talk “Caring for engineered tissue” and I was amazed how we are able to copy the environment of artificially grown cells. There are many techniques used to reduce error and create accurate results. Such amazing replications allow us to grow artificial hearts and bones, enhancing research opportunities on these
parts of the body. This made me wonder how successful we are at modeling
other living systems, so I watched the TED talk “Robert Full on engineering and evolution.” Many years ago, engineer's claimed bees shouldn't be able to fly, dolphins shouldn’t be able to swim, and geckos shouldn't be able to climb from their calculations. However, in the past few years we've been able to explain these phenomenons, showing how much we have progressed. Through watching these great talks, I was curious: How close are we to modeling nature and making predictions without ideal assumptions? Will we ever be able to reach this point and truly copy nature?


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    Mar 3 2012: I don't think we will, Josh but I am not daunted by that because it is already there for us to view, imitate and be inspired by. in the attempt though, I think we will learn astounding amounts.
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      Mar 5 2012: Agreed. To me, a perfect model of nature would be one that evolves with time. In order to do this, we must be able to accurately predict evolutionary changes. Seeing that it has taken nature billions of years to get us where we are, I don't see how we would be able to mimic this evolution in models that we create.

      Looking back from our vantage point, we might be able to reason why some developments happened; we can logic and think our way through them. However, what nature did was different; evolution seemed more or less like a "go with the flow" kind of process. There was no real thought process or brain power behind it, it just happened, maybe instinctively. I think this difference alone is enough to set us apart from nature - nature always seems to be one step ahead of us without thinking, while we think and struggle only to make less than perfect imitations of what nature has already provided.

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