Friday, June 20, 2014

Awesome things in nature, care to share some?

Mantis shrimp have awesome eyes.  In addition to seeing color way better than humans can, they can also detect the various polarizations of light.  Because of the way that vast quantity of data is processed it isn't quite as awesome as it at first seems, but the processing is itself worthy of praise insofar as we understand it.

Octopuses do a large amount of thinking outside of their brains.  Decentralized nervous system for the win.  Some also put chameleons to shame: they change not just their color but also their shape and texture.

Woodpeckers heads are designed to withstand the impact of repeatedly smashing their heads into solid objects.

Some species of birds can dance (not just move, dance) so fast that, without high speed cameras capturing the motion and slowing it down A LOT they appear to simply teleport between the spots where they pause in their dance.

The point, in general, is that there are some pretty awesome things in nature.

I want to write something (which plays fast and loose with actual science) with a genetically engineered character whose abilities are an amalgam of those found in nature.  (Why not have photosynthesis?)

I'd like it if readers would share some things I could work in, or just neat stuff even if I wouldn't be able to fit it into the character.


  1. ...I have to admit, I haven't been collecting these stories.

    That said, when I looked up magnetoception (internal compass, literally!), I found the Wikipedia article on electroreception, which may or may not be completely awesome. :) (Echolocation is also pretty friggin' sweet, but less subtle.)

  2. Photosynthesis is tricky; not enough incoming energy even if you had a 100% efficient converter.

    On the other hand, pistol shrimp.

  3. Ultraviolet perception should be relatively easy to induce in a human character.

    Infrared would be nice, too, maybe from snakes.

  4. Brin, I believe people who'd had cataract surgery (before the advent of the intraocular lens) were in demand as coastal observers in WWII Britain because they could see the near-UV lights sometimes used by submarines; the retina can respond a little way into the UV, but the lens normally blocks it out.

  5. Octopodes win, the end.
    Also, tentacles.
    I am always interested in how species without hands, or even just substantially different hands, would construct or operate machines. I suppose many adaptations for keyboards and cars and such exist for people without arms/hands/etc. in the most common configurations...

    1. I had been idly considering a human-abducted-into-alien-society story in which the human gets a job with lots of typing because many-fingered hands plus keyboards are better for the purpose than most manipulators represented...

  6. Photosynthesis... why not chemosynthesis? Are there multicellular organisms that do that?

    Biomimicry tech: always awesome/terrifying...

    Also this stuff is making me wonder whether there could be cases where a human gene couldn't be repaired or whatever, but some other DNA could be added/changed such that the person with a genetic disorder could compensate using traits usually not found in humans.

  7. There's a lot of cool shapeshifting that happens as embryos form and develop. Cells begin in one spot and then skitter over to new parts of the body to create new structures. Temporary structures are built out of cells and then those cells die away when those structures are not needed anymore.