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Are plant hydraulics a path to adaptive dream machines?

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WASHINGTON – Airplanes might soon have flexible wings like birds and robots could change shape as they please thanks to research under way on mimosa plants, researchers said.

The shrub’s leaves, which can retract at the slightest of touches, could inspire a new class of structures that can twist, bend, harden and even repair themselves, explained University of Michigan professor of mechanical engineering Kon-Well Wang.

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“This and several other characteristics of plant cells and cell walls have inspired us to initiate ideas that could concurrently realize many of the features that we want to achieve for adaptive structures,” he said Saturday at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“The phenomenon is made possible by osmosis, the flow of water in and out of plants’ cells. Triggers such as touch cause water to leave certain plant cells, collapsing them. Water enters other cells, expanding them. These microscopic shifts allow the plants to move and change shape on a larger scale,” he said.

The mimosa is a type of plant able to move itself in a way that is visible to the naked eye in real time. The plant’s “hydraulic system” makes that “nastic motion” possible.

“Triggers such as touch cause water to leave certain plant cells, collapsing them. Water enters other cells, expanding them. These microscopic shifts allow the plants to move and change shape on a larger scale,” the researcher explained.

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Observing the process can be a gateway to designing cells with special mechanical properties, he believes.

“This and several other characteristics of plant cells and cell walls have inspired us to initiate ideas that could concurrently realize many of the features that we want to achieve for adaptive structures,” Wang said.

“We can design those cells according to our needs. We can put those cells into structure, control them in different sequences,” he explained.

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“Currently we are looking at basic research only, but there are some applications that we have in mind,” Wang said.

He mentioned the notions for example of planes able to change the shape of their wings while in flight as birds do; and other machines that change their shape perhaps to go under a bridge.

“You cannot make a plane wing deform to be able to achieve optimum flight condition in different scenario,” he said. But “this kind of technology could help that because we can make the wing active and change its mechanical properties.”

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Meanwhile, auditory sensory cells that help humans hear and give them various detection capabilities are another source of inspiration from nature to develop more sophisticated technologies.

Chang Liu, professor of mechanical engineering at Northwestern University, led a research group that produced artificial hair cells.

“The hair cell is interesting because biology uses this same fundamental structure to serve a variety of purpose,” he told a press conference. “This differs from how engineers typically design sensors, which are often used for a specific task.”

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In creating these artificial cells with the use of nanotechnology, researchers have significantly improved the sensitivity of the sensors while understanding better how various animals use them.

And all fish are equipped with lateral auditory cells as well.

However, amphibians are not equipped with such sensors, which provide still more information about the movement of water, said Chang Liu.

For now, he is focusing on medical applications as sensors of fluid in the apparatus or at the end of a catheter.

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White House ripped for ‘ridiculously misogynistic stereotype’ in attack on Speaker Pelosi

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The White House was harshly criticized for an attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) launched by White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.

Grisham was already under fire for claiming President Donald Trump had been "measured" in a meeting with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) when she lashed out at the female speaker.

https://twitter.com/PressSec/status/1184598320330788864

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Internet laughs off press secretary’s claims of presidential calm: ‘How often has Trump struck you as ‘measured’

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President Donald Trump isn't exactly known for being calm or measured, but that's what his White House is claiming he was during a meeting with Democratic and Republican leaders.

"[email protected] was measured & decisive today. @SpeakerPelosi walking out was baffling but not surprising w NO intention of participating in a mtg on nat’l security. Dem “leadership” chose to storm out & whine to cameras, everyone else stayed to work on behalf of our country," tweeted Stephanie Grisham.

It prompted CNN's Chris Cillizza to inquire when Trump ever struck someone as "measured."

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Republicans lack the ‘moxie’ to defend America’s Kurdish allies in Syria: Ex-RNC Chair

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Republicans will criticize President Donald Trump on foreign policy, but lack the nerve to do anything meaningful to protect America's Kurdish allies in northern Syria, the former chair of the Republican Party explained on MSNBC on Wednesday.

MSNBC's Chuck Todd interviewed Steele about what it would take for Republicans to serve as a check on the president.

"I think the only way to make him change his mind is -- he’s got to think they might walk," Todd said.

"Well, that would require a level of moxie that we haven’t seen from the leadership," Steele replied.

"On the foreign policy space, I think that’s the one area where we’ve seen people actually start to push back rhetorically," he noted. "But I don’t know if internally they’ve really sat down with the president and go, 'This is how damaging this is, this is how troublesome it is, and this is the problem you’re having inside the caucus.' I just don’t — at least from the folks I’ve talked to, I haven’t gotten the sense they’ve gone there yet."

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