One of the problems facing designers or manufacturing engineers is that all biological papers are written by biologists with little thought to reverse engineering and therefore they have to wade through until something catches their eye. In this case, for me, it was the discovery of a recent technological development and acquisition by the university, a single-phase confocal microscope in the neuroscience lab. This was in September 2002.
By way of explanation, this discovery was important for the purposes of technology transfer since a confocal microscope was a long way from the shop floor such as I had worked upon during my undergraduate years.
At the same time I discovered that a visiting academic from Melbourne, Dr Gordon Sansom, had used the confocal microscope in his paper on the imaging of bat’s teeth.
My office which I shared with five others, was just a hop and a skip from the Neuroscience Lab where I discovered the helpful Research Officer Ian Jones who was happy to demonstrate the abilities of the microscope on my three specimens, once set in well slides in water.
The Research Topic
The Research Grant called the project:
“The Functional Ecology and Mechanical Properties of Biological Hooks in Nature”
As Gordon Sansom said to me, it was a wide field.
Think about it. Think about all the varieties of insects in the world and all the chitinous forms they occupy. Insect tarsii and mandibles. I am cutting to the chase here with my own conclusions. The interest in this project lay not in project design, but in developing the technology to manufacture a copy of a small natural hook (or two) to see if we can make a hook that will stick to the wall like a fly does.
Simple. And this is where the following work is taking you. And there is a little product design as a by-product.
But there must be a wise man’s saying about time, distance and achievement. Sometimes progress can only happen at its own speed and we are lucky enough to be there when there is a conjunction. So far there has been the work of Paper 1 below, then the sequence following, and the groundwork is laid for moving on to study a fly or a bee or a locust for instance.
This topic was presented to me in June 2002 and it is now April 2020! Good God!
Solid Mechanics/Mechanics of Solids
Any old school engineer can tell you that every system can be defined as either static or dynamic.
My project on Hooks is a static analysis of a structure. This is its Functional Ecology.
Studying the flight of a dragonfly is a dynamic analysis and static analysis, of movement and structure respectively. This is its Functional Ecology.
IN the case of the species of burdock that I chose, it is a single use attachment therefore a dynamic case is not applicable. It’s not like the burdock seed is trying to hitch-hike around the globe, it attaches to a single animal, once, until the fruit ripens, falls apart and the seeds within are exposed to fall to the ground and germinate.
As you may guess the dynamic case is about movement and what we have to do is model the movement of the fly’s wings so that we can get a signal/movement to reproduce through control analysis theory as an integrated circuit. This can be done with standard software on the market like Simulink. The I.C. activates the actuators and flight is theoretically possible.
So you have an Open System with identical input and output, just controlled by different languages – one by a brain and nervous system and the other the language of sensors and actuators.
As you will read I handed three complete papers to Vincent at Bath U in the Mech Eng Dept in 2006. Later Cameron went to China on trade talks taking my results in a black bound book to China. They refused it and cut off his hand for theft (see Steve Bell, The Guardian).
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