Navigation Links
Researchers link patterns seen in spider silk, melodies
Date:12/8/2011

Using a new mathematical methodology, researchers at MIT have created a scientifically rigorous analogy that shows the similarities between the physical structure of spider silk and the sonic structure of a melody, proving that the structure of each relates to its function in an equivalent way.

The step-by-step comparison begins with the primary building blocks of each item an amino acid and a sound wave and moves up to the level of a beta sheet nanocomposite (the secondary structure of a protein consisting of repeated hierarchical patterns of protein assemblages) and a musical riff (a repeated pattern of notes or chords). The study explains that structural patterns are directly related to the functional properties of lightweight strength in the spider silk and, in the riff, sonic tension that creates an emotional response in the listener.

While the comparison of spider silk and musical composition may appear to be more novelty than breakthrough, the methodology behind it represents a new approach to the comparison of research findings in disparate scientific fields. Such analogies could help engineers develop materials that make use of the repeating patterns of simple building blocks found in many biological materials that, like spider silk, are lightweight yet extremely failure-resistant. The work also suggests that engineers may be able to gain new insights into biological systems through the study of the structure-function relationships found in music and other art forms.

The MIT researchers David Spivak, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Mathematics, Associate Professor Markus Buehler of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) and CEE graduate student Tristan Giesa published their findings in the December issue of BioNanoScience.

They created the analogy using ontology logs, or "ologs," a concept introduced about a year ago by Spivak, who specializes in a branch of mathematics called category theory. Ologs provide an abstract means for categorizing the general properties of a system be it a material, mathematical concept or phenomenon and showing inherent relationships between function and structure.

To build the ologs, the researchers used information from Buehler's previous studies of the nanostructure of spider silk and other biological materials.

"There is mounting evidence that similar patterns of material features at the nanoscale, such as clusters of hydrogen bonds or hierarchical structures, govern the behavior of materials in the natural environment, yet we couldn't mathematically show the analogy between different materials," Buehler says. "The olog lets us compile information about how materials function in a mathematically rigorous way and identify those patterns that are universal to a very broad class of materials. Its potential for engineering the built environment in the design of new materials, structures or infrastructure is immense."

At first glance, an olog may look deceptively simple, much like a corporate organizational chart that shows reporting relationships using directional arrows. But ologs demand scientific rigor to break a system down into its most basic structural building blocks, define the functional properties of the building blocks themselves with respect to one another, show how function emerges through the building blocks' interactions, and do this in a self-consistent manner. With this structure, two or more systems can be formally compared.

"The fact that a spider's thread is robust enough to avoid catastrophic failure even when a defect is present can be explained by the very distinct material makeup of spider silk fibers," Giesa says. "It's exciting to see that music theoreticians observed the same phenomenon in their field, probably without any knowledge of the concept of damage tolerance in materials. Deleting single chords from a harmonic sequence often has only a minor effect on the harmonic quality of the whole sequence."

"The seemingly incredible gap between spider silk and music is no wider than the gap between the two disparate mathematical fields of geometry think of triangles and spheres and algebra, which uses variables and equations," Spivak says. "Yet category theory's first success in the 1940s was to express a rigorous mathematical analogy between these two domains and to use it to prove new theorems about complex geometric shapes by importing existing theorems from algebra. It remains to be seen whether our olog will yield such striking results; however, the foundation for such an inquiry is now in place."


'/>"/>
Contact: Denise Brehm
brehm@mit.edu
617-253-8069
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Salk researchers develop safe way to repair sickle cell disease genes
2. Researchers find best routes to self-assembling 3-D shapes
3. Researchers assess radioactivity released to the ocean from the Fukushima nuclear facility
4. Researchers reveal SBP8a configurations
5. Winning early-career researchers excel in entrepreneurship
6. Fraunhofer researchers receive the Franco-German Business Award 2011
7. Marine predators in trouble: UBC researchers
8. Researchers at GIS develop systematic approach for accurate DNA sequence reconstruction
9. 2 top biological imaging centers offer powerful free online tool to researchers and public
10. Adult stem cells use special pathways to repair damaged muscle, MU researchers find
11. Medical researchers in Canada and the US discover hidden side of prion diseases
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Researchers link patterns seen in spider silk, melodies
(Date:6/16/2016)... June 16, 2016 The ... expected to reach USD 1.83 billion by 2024, ... Research, Inc. Technological proliferation and increasing demand in ... expected to drive the market growth. ... The development of advanced multimodal techniques for ...
(Date:6/3/2016)... LONDON , June 3, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... Transport Management) von Nepal ... ,Angebot und Lieferung hochsicherer geprägter Kennzeichen, einschließlich ... weltweit führend in der Produktion und Implementierung ... an der Ausschreibung im Januar teilgenommen, aber ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... Ampronix facilitates superior patient care by providing unparalleled technology to leaders of the medical ... premium product recently added to the range of products distributed by Ampronix. ... ... ... Ampronix News ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/22/2016)... Research and Markets has announced the addition of the ... The global biomarkers market has ... The market is expected to grow at a five-year compound annual ... $50.6 billion in 2015 to $96.6 billion in 2020. ... to 2020) are discussed. As well, new products approved in 2013 ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... LOS ANGELES , June 22, 2016   ... an SNNLive Video Interview with Dr. Nader Pourhassan ... a biotechnology company focused on the clinical development and ... and prevention of HIV infection, according to the company,s ... was recorded on Tuesday, June 7 th , 2016, ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... DIEGO , June 22, 2016   ViaCyte, ... first pluripotent stem cell-derived islet replacement therapy for the ... presentations at ISSCR 2016 Annual Meeting.  ISSCR 2016, the ... to 25th at Moscone West in San Francisco.  ... of the presentations are as follows:Event: , Focus Session: ...
(Date:6/22/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 22, 2016 , ... ... at placing a spotlight on immigrant achievements and contributions to North Texas and ... most important contributors from the immigrant community to the civic and economic vitality ...
Breaking Biology Technology: