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Biological Modeling

four basic biological tasks of plants

Let's talk about modeling now for just a moment and have some additional fun. Here we have to think back about how plants perform their four principal biological functions: light interception, mechanical support, hydraulics, and reproduction. I've shown you that we're capable of quantifying each of these biological tasks. Now we can create universes of different morphologies and ask how they perform each of these individual tasks. We can ask how they perform two tasks at any time simultaneously, how they can perform three tasks simultaneously or all four at the same time. Let's see what the computer tells us are the end results.

best morphology for each of four basic tasks For each of the four tasks performed individually, these are the best morphologies for each of the four tasks.
best morphology for completing 2 of four basic tasks Two tasks at the same time, these are the best morphologies.

best morphology for completing 3 and all of four basic tasksThree tasks at the same time and all four at the same time. Do you notice something interesting? As you increase the number of tasks to be performed at the same time, there are more morphologies that can accommodate the tasks and, as you increase the number of tasks, the best morphologies take on more of a biologically realistic appearance. There is another thing that you perhaps can't see. Indeed, I don't except you to. That is, as things become more complex in terms of their biological function, they're less good at performing those functions individually. But, they're nevertheless, the best around.

ability to complete multiple tasks and complexity

Think about this from an engineering point of view. If I ask you to design a toaster, it's not difficult to come up with a really good design. In fact, there aren't very many designs that can toast all that well. But now suppose I ask you to take that toaster and make it into a vacuum cleaner as well. I bet you every one of us could come up with a different design. I also bet that every one of our designs might be able to vacuum our floors and make toast equally well. They're not good toasters. They're not good vacuum cleaners but, they're pretty good at doing both together.


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