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 7 2012: Science is the study of physical phenomena, which may not be present in natural living things. For example, there are no animals that fly exactly the same as hot air balloons or rockets fly. But by experimenting, people have been able to observe trends and relationships. Engineering is the to application of scientific principals to generate solutions that satisfy human needs. So, we "model" nature, or physical phenomena, to better understand the world around us. Then we use these "models" to improve the human living condition. But, it is not necessary to exactly model phenomena in order to get benefit. Approximate models work just fine. It not even necessary to have any model,, the cut and try approach can work sometimes too. I think the important thing is to ask questions like "why does that happen" or "how can we do this better" or "would life be better if...".

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