superpowers in the animal kingdom

edited February 2015 in Everything else
Here are some great animal traits that I think would be great to emulate, either biologically or technologically.  Add to the list!

1.  Sharks.  They have the best electrosensory systems, able to detect faint bioelectric signals several miles away.  They use organs called the ampullae of lorentzini.  This would pretty much make the magnetic finger implants obsolete.  (On a slightly related note, it seems that sharks can be repelled by neodymium magnets)

2.  Bats.  Sonar.

3.  Pit vipers.  Heat vision.


  • edited January 2011

    But I might as well leech off of this topic  :D
  • Some extra animal abilities

    Some bears, including silvertip grizzlies can smell a carcass from 18 miles away and catch your scent up to 48 hours after you have left an area.

    Pigeons "use tiny magnetic particles in their beaks to sense our planet's magnetic field"

    Most amazing is the mantis shrimp; Its eyes can see all the colours we can see as well as Ultraviolet, Infrared and Polarized light. It also has depth perception that can function even after losing an eye
  • @DirectorX:  I believe the reason a shark's ampullae are so sensitive is that they use strong electroception as opposed to weak; what they do is send out a pulse of current and "measure" the time it takes to get back.  Basically, the electroreception version of echolocation, also creatively named electrolocation.  In any case, I remember someone commenting on L's FAQ page asking about this subject, so you might want to contact him/her/it/whatever and point him to this thread.

    Also, you might be interested in Noisebridge's project to build a haptic ultrasound/echolocation sensor.  I wonder how hard it would be to develop something that is to that as the Southpaw is to the Northpaw.  Also, heat vision is, for everyday objects, equivalent to infrared vision, so the two problems are equivalent.  Of course, many nocturnal mammals can see infrared, so...

    @Firedust:  The Southpaw project is effectively an attempt to replicate the magnetoreception of birds.

    Humans can already indirectly detect polarized light, through an effect called Haidinger's brush, but, yeah, it certainly would be great to be able to detect it directly.

    While we're listing "animal superpowers," wouldn't it be great to have the range of vision of an eagle?  Those things can see the ground fairly clearly high in the air. 

    Also, some animals (mostly herbivores) have eyes on the side of their head, thus increasing their field of vision at the expense of 3D vision.  The most extreme example is the rabbit, which has a near-2-pi-radian field (hands up if you got that), with almost no 3D vision.  But wouldn't it be great to have a sort of "tetranocular (four-eyed)" vision, so that we could combine a 360-degree field of vision with 3D vision over that entire field?  And while I'm speculating, I wonder what would happen if you had three eyes' fields overlapping, instead of just two.  Two gives you 3D vision, but I wonder what three would give you...
  • The moth has an incredible olfactory sense, allowing it to detect pheromones miles away.  MIGHT help some of you get laid.....

    @Ian:  I like the haptic ultrasound project.  It wouldn't too different from the southpaw.
  • Is it possible that moths also have stronger pheromones than other animals, increasing the distance?
  • *raises hand*

    We don't really have 3D vision; our brains are just bloody good at solving parallax equations. Nemogrinds has posted a method for widening one's field of view in another thread. (I have an easy and reversible one; if I replace my glasses with contacts, I get an extra 20 degrees either side. Integrating that involves a LOT of twitching.)

    Flies have 5 eyes; if you've ever wondered why it's so hard to catch one, now you know why. ",)

    Those ultrasound rangefinders are being rapidly refined in robotics work; a feedback mechanism is possible, but implanting would mean figuring out how to get ultrasound waves out (and back in) through the skin. The field of view of the readily-available ones are quite narrow - the strategy is to keep sweeping them to generate an proper field of view in front of the platform.
  • @Unq:  Yes, I knew that our vision isn't "literally" 3D; but the two overlapping eyes are what allow our brain to solve those equations.  Most people, myself included, just say "3D" for simplicity's sake.  I do realize, though, that that's a bit of an oversimplification.

    You know, the implanted sonar might be a good project for L to do after it's done with the Southpaw...
  • @Unqualified: You can still implant the haptic vibrators (tinglers, whatever the technical name is).  The sensors would have to be external.  Really the haptic buzzers could be set up to go off for a wide range of things.  You could have infrared sensors, x-ray sensors, etc, all set up to signal the implanted buzzers when the right conditions are met.  I think this is the way to go for the time being (for me anyway). 
  • @Ian more about the mantis shrimp; they actually have trinocular vision in each eye due to "six parallel rows of highly specialised ommatidia, collectively called the midband, which divides the eye into three regions." so you could get 2-pi field of vision (or close enough) with 2 eyes instead of needing four. I suspect having two eyes would cause less problems, both socially and well, we really don't know how far brain plasticity goes, do we?

  • @Firedust huh, that's interesting.  I think my statement about needing tetra+nocular vision to achieve a "3D" field of vision that's also 2-pi radians still stands, but I never thought of putting "multinocular" (whatever that means) vision in a single eye.  So, basically it looks like the mantis shrimp has in total "hexanocular(?)" vision (god i'm sick of coming up with all these "nocular" terms).  Wonder how we could achieve that with the human eye. . .

    And, how many of us that are willing to endure the "OOO GROSS WTF DIDJOO DO DAT 4 EW EW EW" of society really care about the reaction to having four eyes, anyway?
  • @Ian Those "willing to endure the "OOO GROSS WTF DIDJOO DO DAT 4 EW EW EW" of society" will of course go through with it. The optive word being endure; I study psychology and the reasons we do what we do in my spare time and as you are well aware, selection to mate is a driving force of many of our actions. If four eyes puts off potential mates (you can just hear the ewwwwww's), those who take those actions will be stigmatized instead of praised and less will take the leap. This is why i want to make the community come off as slick as possible. If we can make it sexy, we can make it widespread. Once widespread there are far more mods on the market at lower cost (economy of scale) and thus we will be able to get our heat vision earlier in out lives, safer (practice a procedure 1000 times and see how good you get) and with a greater range of options. 
    Don't you agree?
  • I'll do it.  My wife will be pissed off, but she will get used to it.
  • edited January 2011
    Would having multiple fields of vision per eye be even noticable from the outside?
    I wouldn't go for extra eyes. I have enough vunerable spots as it is, thank you.
    Iirc humans have magnecite nodules in the bridge of the nose too. Shouldn't be too hard to strengthen.

    Electic Eels generate electricity in their electrocytes, which I hear are relatively similar to muscle cells. Of we could just a few of these in our muscle tissue then powering implants would be a whole different ballgame.

    Cellular regeneration in nature is achived via stem cells. Humans create stem cells when fetal. Could this capability be reactivated?
  • @AxiomaticBadger - There are many animals, such as the 'immortal jellyfish', 'tardigrade', and the axolotl that is capable of doing that.
  • @AxiomaticBadger: adult cells have been regenerated to stem cells in the past. Again, a lot of what we want to do has been done, merely to a sheep in a lab somewhere. Poor sheep, getting all sorts of human perversions foisted on them. (",)

    I can't find the academic papers, but apparently a research group or two has powered electronics via ATP, which would solve power issues essentially immediately, so long as you stayed inside the body's power budget. And if the photosynthesis thing in another thread could be made to work and produce ATP, that would raise that limit...
  • Speaking of photosynthesis, there are radiotrophic fungi living in Chernobyl that can metabolize not only regular light, but harmful radiation.  There are even fungi that can use radiant heat as energy.  If that doesn't increase the ATP budget I don't know what will  
  • My point with regeneration is that stem cell creation is an ability that humans already display, albeit in an extremely limited manner. Surely reactivating an innate ability would be easier than implanting an entirely new one?
  • @AxiomaticBadger: I believe that the University of Utah was working on this for a while.  I'm not sure if they are still working on it, but I know they haven't figured it out yet.
  • It's the kind of thing that they'll get working, then spend ten years trying to engineer out the propensity to go cancerous. But it's also the kind of thing that will eventually get done by an impressive lab somewhere and will then get reverse-engineered out from under the DRM. It WILL be done, because there's too much interest (and money) in it not to.
  • edited January 2011
    I know a man who invests in this and that, and one of his investments is in a company creating an enclosure or capsule of sorts which would allow researchers to implant a small amount of stem cells in a human and let them divide within the limited space of the capsule.

    The device is built so that it lets in the nutrients needed for the stemcells to divide without letting any stem cells into the blood stream. I do not know if there was any fail-safe should the capsule be destroyed, but apparently they were had a safe plan for human trials, so.. 
    The company had gotten some sort of non-competition research patent essentially ensuring nobody manoeuvred them out until their research passed the critical point where it could be used outside the lab. Don't know what that's called..

    //edit, of original topic, sorry.
  • edited January 2011
    Is any of this possible in a DIY lab we have today? Where would a biohacker start and what would she need? 

    If it's not, this displaces us from the practical doing of grinding.
  • @SovereignBleak:  I would say the ones having to do with sensory extension are definitely possible today; or at least, to say that they aren't is to at the same time give up on the Southpaw.  The idea is this:  Any device that a) receives an input of information, b) can be made small enough to fit under the skin, and c) can be attached to an electrode (which is pretty much any device conceivable) can act as an "artificial" sense.

    This means that every sense imaginable can be wired to us, with today's technology, if we solve three problems.  The first is miniaturization, which I remember L having trouble with at first with the Southpaw.  The second is bioproofing, for obvious reasons.

    The third may be a little more challenging.  It has to do with the fact that certain forms of input wouldn't work under the skin.  For example, let's say that we decided to give ourselves the ability to sense UV light by implanting UV sensors attached to electrodes.  Our skin isn't transparent to UV light, because of a pigment in our skin called melanin.  Other senses would suffer from the same problem.  To get around this, from what I see, would require that we either:

    a) figure out how to do things transdermal.  We know from L's experience that it's not nearly as straightforward as it sounds, but if we could find a way to do it properly, we could simply point the sensor out of the skin, and put the attached electrode in the skin.

    b) rather than sensing the object in question directly, try instead to sense the indirect effects of that object.  For example, when UV hits your melanin, the melanin darkens (that's what it's "programmed" to do).  We could then hypothetically rig a sensor that will detect when the melanin darkens, and send a signal as a result (ok, that's actually a bad example, since the darkening of melanin is more of a long-term thing.  But you get the idea).

    I'll give an example--strong electroreception.  We already have a sense of weak electroreception; that's given by the magnets.  Strong electroreception, for those who don't already know, is basically the principle of echolocation applied to electricity, creatively enough called "electrolocation."  The "ampulla" sends out a weak current, and then measures the field around it as a result of putting out that current.  All it would really take is to make a small machine which sends out current (which would be almost trivial), and connect it to an electrode.  The electrode will tell us when the "ping" was sent out, and then the neodymium magnets would measure the field.  This sense would probably work much better in salt water than in air (which is why sharks have it and we don't), but it would still be awesome.  Plus, you could use it to measure the electric field inside another person while you shake their hand.  How cool would that be?

    The problem, again, is that this sense probably requires transdermal contact points or an indirect way to do this.  Thoughts?
  • @Ian: it wasn't that Lepht found transdermal difficult, it's that it seems no-one can do transdermal at all easily. I've seen one research paper that gives a method; I haven't seriously searched, but generally if you've found one you find two in the same search.
    That paper's method involved attaching the transdermal component to the bone....
  • @Unqualified - Ouch, well, that is out of the question (unless we have someone here with more chutzpah than Lepht, but I wouldn't encourage it).

    @Ian - In terms of UV sensing, I think the best way to go would be UV sight.  It is an ability already found in many bird species, and it has been shown that photopigment genes can be transfered relatively easily (
  • @Lukas:  I fully agree--in fact, I started a thread on that about a week ago.  I was just using that as an example.  My main idea was to replicate a shark's sense of strong electroreception.
  • @Ian:  My apologies 
  • I was just thinking about the issue of transdermal, and I remembered metal Mohawk Joe.
  • This is moving off-topic.
  • Isn't there an implant thread? 
  • @Sovereign:  weren't you the one that asked how we could do these things DIY?
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