Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Nature still sets standard for nanoscience revolution: Contrarian behavior allows for flexibility, survival in the microbial world and beyond

Abstract:
By striving for control and perfection in everything from computer chips to commercial jets, scientists and engineers actually exclude a fundamental force that allows nature to outperform even their best efforts.

Nature still sets standard for nanoscience revolution: Contrarian behavior allows for flexibility, survival in the microbial world and beyond

Oak Ridge, TN | Posted on April 19th, 2011

Although it may appear to defy logic, imperfections and the seemingly randomness among even the lowly bacteria help keep nature a couple of steps ahead, according to Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Peter Cummings and Mike Simpson, co-authors of a paper published in ACS Nano.

"Contrarian investing is one strategy for winning in the stock market," Cummings said, "but it may also be a fundamental feature of all natural processes and holds the key to many diverse phenomena, including the ability of the human immunodeficiency virus to withstand modern medicines."

In their paper, Cummings and Simpson outline a theory that maintains that in any given population, an imperfect minority - the "noise" - is beneficial to the whole. Less perfection is actually good.

"That is the lesson of nature, where a humble bacterial cell outperforms our best computer chips by a factor of 100 million, and it does this in part by being less than perfect," Simpson said.

If we think of a computer chip as a lot of on-off switches, modern technology has become pretty good at making the switches perfect. When we turn them on, they are on. But life works differently, as it has the element of chance, where like the flip of a coin, the outcome can't be predicted, just the likelihood - a 50 percent chance of heads - can be known. In contrast to the computer chip, the bacterial cell has imperfect chance-ridden switches, and through these imperfections, the bacteria can do things the computer chip cannot.

"Instead of trying to make perfect decisions based on imperfect information, the cell plays the odds with an important twist: it hedges its bets," Simpson said. "Sure, most of the cells will place bets on the likely winner, but an important few will put their money on the long shot."

These few contrarian bets can have consequences that belie their rarity. For example, the AIDS virus has one of these chancy switches in which most of the infected cells are made to produce new virus that can make them infect other cells. But just a few of the infected cells flip the switch the other way and the virus enters a dormant state.

"Like ticking bombs, these dormant infections can become active sometime later, and it is these contrarian events that are the main factor preventing the eradication of AIDS," Simpson said.

From the point of view of the virus, it is this imperfect switch that allows it to deal with the threat of therapy.

Circling back to the computer chip, Cummings noted that they get faster and more powerful mostly by getting smaller. They have gotten so small now that they are entering the world of nanotechnology, where things become less perfect and more affected by chance.

"But our technology has fought against this chance using a brute force approach that consumes a lot of power," Cummings said.

In fact, one of the factors limiting the building of more powerful computers is the grid-busting amount of energy they require. Yet residing atop the cabinets of these supercomputers, basking in the heat generated in the fight to defeat the element of chance, the lowly bacteria show us another way.

Cummings and Simpson conduct research at the Department of Energy's Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at ORNL and hold joint appointments at Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee, respectively.

The paper is titled "Fluctuations and Correlations in Physical and Biological Nanosystems: The Tale is in the Tails."— Ron Walli, April 18, 2011

####

About The Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences
The Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers, premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale supported by the DOE Office of Science. Together the centers comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The centers are located at Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge, Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories. For more information about the centers, please visit science.energy.gov/bes/suf/user-facilities/nanoscale-science-research-centers/.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
P.O. Box 2008
Oak Ridge, TN 37831
(+1) 865.574.4160
Ron Walli
Science Writer
Communications & Media Relations

Copyright © The Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

NanoScience: Giants of the Infinitesimal July 31st, 2014

University of Manchester selects Anasys AFM-IR for coatings and corrosion research July 30th, 2014

Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics July 30th, 2014

Analytical solutions from Malvern Instruments support University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researchers in understanding environmental effects of nanomaterials July 30th, 2014

Laboratories

Stanford team achieves 'holy grail' of battery design: A stable lithium anode - Engineers use carbon nanospheres to protect lithium from the reactive and expansive problems that have restricted its use as an anode July 27th, 2014

NIST shows ultrasonically propelled nanorods spin dizzyingly fast July 22nd, 2014

Sono-Tek Corporation Announces New Clean Room Rated Laboratory Facility in China July 18th, 2014

Fundamental Chemistry Findings Could Help Extend Moore’s Law: A Berkeley Lab-Intel collaboration outlines the chemistry of photoresist, enabling smaller features for future generations of microprocessors July 15th, 2014

Chip Technology

Nanometrics Reports Second Quarter 2014 Financial Results July 30th, 2014

A*STAR and industry form S$200M semiconductor R&D July 25th, 2014

A Crystal Wedding in the Nanocosmos July 23rd, 2014

Penn Study: Understanding Graphene’s Electrical Properties on an Atomic Level July 22nd, 2014

Discoveries

New imaging agent provides better picture of the gut July 30th, 2014

Watching Schrödinger's cat die (or come to life): Steering quantum evolution & using probes to conduct continuous error correction in quantum computers July 30th, 2014

From Narrow to Broad July 30th, 2014

A new way to make microstructured surfaces: Method can produce strong, lightweight materials with specific surface properties July 29th, 2014

Announcements

NanoScience: Giants of the Infinitesimal July 31st, 2014

Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics July 30th, 2014

Analytical solutions from Malvern Instruments support University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researchers in understanding environmental effects of nanomaterials July 30th, 2014

FEI Unveils New Solutions for Faster Time-to-Analysis in Metals Research July 30th, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE