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No. 23: Sep-Oct 1982

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Remarkable Engineering Design In Nature

Two unusual examples of inspired design in nature have been described recently:

(1) The swordfish possesses special tissues rich in mitochrondria and cytochrome-c that generate heat for the animal's eye and brain. Not only do these heating elements keep the swordfish eye and brain significantly warmer than the surrounding water but they also keep these organs warm and thus more effective during deep dives into the cold ocean depths.

(Carey, Francis G.; "A Brain Heater in the Swordfish," Science, 216:1327, 1982.)

(2) Plants, it seems, developed light pipes long before humans. Certain plant tissues (etiolated or dark-grown) act as multiple bundles of optical fibers and coherently transfer light over distances of at least 2 cm. Optical tests show that these natural light pipes are much more effective transmitters of light than media that simply scatter light. This unsuspected sophistication of Nature's design may require significant revisions in photobiology, which did not allow for such ingenuity.

(Smith , Harry; "Light-Piping by Plant Tissues," Nature, 298:423, 1982.)

Comment. Since some plants are known to emit light, we would not be surprised, the way things are going, to learn of natural plant lasers!

From Science Frontiers #23, SEP-OCT 1982. 1982-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987