Seeing like ants and flying like flies reported in ABC News in Science, Nature News and ScienceNOW 1 May 2013, and Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature12083. An interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers has built a digital camera that functions like an insect eye. Insect eyes are made up of multiple miniature eye-like structures named ommatidia all fitted together into a curved shape to give a wide angle view. Each ommatidium contains a lens and a cone that funnels light to a light sensitive organ. Conventional man-made wide angle wide-angle camera lenses distort images because the light passes through a strongly curved man made lens, yet the image must be captured on a flat detector made of a brittle substances that can’t be bent.

The researchers took their new inspiration from insect eyes because they claim, “In arthropods, evolution has created a remarkably sophisticated class of imaging systems, with a wide-angle field of view, low aberrations, high acuity to motion and an infinite depth of field.” The research team developed pliable materials that could be built into a curved, multi-lens structure similar to the compound eye of an insect. The camera has the equivalent of 180 ommatidia, each with a lens, silicon photo-detectors and electronic circuitry to analyse the image. This gives the camera similar vision to that of a fire ant or bark beetle. The researchers hope to eventually develop a camera with vision as good as a dragonfly, which has 20,000 ommatidia.

Meanwhile another team of engineers has designed and built “an 80-milligram, insect-scale, flapping-wing robot modeled loosely on the morphology of flies.” The robot’s wings are made of plastic and carbon fibre and are moved by piezo-electric materials. A control system can move the wings independently so that the robot can hover and make controlled flight maneuvers, but it must be tethered to a power source. The researchers are hoping to develop a battery small enough to be carried on board, so that the robot can fly independently.

ABC Eye, ABC Fly, Nature News Eye , Nature News Fly 

Editorial Comment: Claiming that “evolution has created a remarkably sophisticated class of imaging systems” is a contradiction in terms. The naturalistic chance random processes that supposedly give rise to evolution do not, and cannot, create anything. Maybe if these two groups of scientists got together they could eventually build something that had eyes like a dragonfly and flew like a fly. If they do, they will have proven it takes much pre-existent creative intelligence to design and build a flying insect. Even with the progress they have made in their respective areas of research they are without excuse for refusing to acknowledge the Creative Genius who had already designed and built insect eyes with 20,000 ommatidia, along with wing muscles powered from ‘organic rechargeable batteries’ carried on board. (Ref. Insects, vision, aerodynamics)

Evidence News 8 May 2013