You must admit, it's a cute ad. People from TV invade the Intel briefing room, only to find those therein on hands and knees looking for their newest chip - some clod apparently dropped it. 'It's - uh - not big,' murmurs the chairman. 'Ah - here it is!' And he holds it high at tweezer's end. Even magnified, you can't see it. Our big ideas aren't your big ideas, says the ad, and then everyone sings the Intel song. "Our big ideas" is the phrase we want to hold onto.
Back in 1965 Intel co-founder Gordon Moore had his own big idea, which all technogeeks know by heart. Dubbed Moore’s Law, it decrees that every two years you’ll be able to double the components that will fit on an integrated circuit. His prediction has proven valid. Thus, in my school days, our high school had an IBM 360 computer for "computer science" class. It took up an entire room, required air conditioning, was fed data via punchcard, impressed the daylights out of anyone then, and moved snail-like compared to anything now.
In recent years, scientists have started fretting over how much longer Moore’s Law can hold. It’s not that they can’t imagine chips getting yet smaller. It’s that the tools to make them so will become so expensive that nobody will be able to afford chips made thereby. But now IBM claims to have the answer: use the DNA molecule – the very building block of life – as a scaffold upon which to assemble the new chips! They're cheap, tiny, intricate, predictable, and readily reproducible. Pour your pre-mixed nanotube (strands of carbon atoms that can conduct electricity) goo over them and see it mold into the form you want, much like intricate snowflakes form on molecules in the cold atmosphere. Will it work? IBM swears it will, though it will be 10 years before it reaches production. Once it does, the current crop of designer tools, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, can be replaced with less than a million dollars of polymers, DNA solutions, and heating implements.
Is that clever, or what? "What we are really making are tiny DNA circuit boards that will be used to assemble other components," says Greg Wallraff, IBM scientist. Will IBM, like Intel, start boasting about their "big idea?" If so, who could deny them?
Still, isn't there something incongruous about praising human ability to copy nature, while insisting nature itself arose by pure accident, nurtured only by natural selection? Billion dollar companies, with million dollar facilities, employing the best brains on the planet, building upon generations of accumulated research, and their ultimate accomplishment is, not to design something new, but to mimic something already occurring in nature - a pure freebee once they figure out how to copy it! Even the most impressed-with-himself counterfeiter acknowledges the greater skill and organization of those whom he copies. And even the dumbest construction worker tromping on literal scaffolds, building IBM headquarters, knows those scaffolds didn't just set themselves up. But today's scientists aren't inclined that way. They've mastered a few card tricks, so they figure themselves David Copperfield's equal.
Humans lifting ideas from nature to devise this or that "invention" happens so often that there is a word for it: biomimicry. You can even go here and view the Nature's Top 100 List. But humans giving credit to the originator of the ideas is a rare phenomenon. Today, it almost never happens. It wasn't always like that.
Four hundred years ago Johannes Kepler worked out the laws governing planetary motion. They move in ellipses, not circles, with the sun at one focal point. Over any given time unit, the triangle connecting planets with both focal points sweeps out equal areas of space, regardless of where they are in their orbit. He published his findings in his treatise Astronomia Nova. Sure, he was pleased with himself, but he kept his big head in perspective. He saved his praise for the one who designed what he had only discovered. Smack dab in the midst of his treatise, he inserted:
"The wisdom of the Lord is infinite; so also are His glory and His power. Ye heavens, sing His praises! Sun, moon, and planets glorify Him in your ineffable language! Celestial harmonies, all ye who comprehend His marvelous works, praise Him. And thou, my soul, praise thy Creator! It is by Him and in Him that all exists. that which we know best is comprised in Him, as well as in our vain science. To Him be praise, honor, and glory throughout eternity."
His third law he call the "harmonic law," for he believed it revealed the harmony God had instilled into the solar system. "I feel caried away and possessed by an unutterable rapture over the divine spectacle of the heavenly harmony," he enthused.
Galileo voiced similar thoughts regarding his own discoveries, as did Newton. And it was only a few generations ago that collecting artifacts of nature in the belief that studying such could teach one about God was a popular pastime. Alas, no more. Is it really inexcusable, as Romans 1:20 states, not to percieve God through the things he has created?