This article discusses how Singapore is amassing a brain trust to compensate for resources that nature didn’t provide to it. CREATE or “Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise” is one of the most ambitious projects of Singapore’s National Research Foundation. CREATE seeks to unite Singapore’s universities with world-class research institutions to study issues ranging from urban planning to medical treatment. The organization has partnerships with 10 foreign universities, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Technical University of Munich, Cambridge University, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. There are five research groups in CREATE’s partnership with Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The research areas are infectious diseases, environmental sensing and modeling, biosystems and micromechanics, urban mobility, and low-energy electronic systems. The University of California, Berkeley, has two research programs with CREATE. One aims to improve the efficiency of buildings in the tropics, and the other is working on raising the electrical output of photovoltaic devices.
De Ruyter from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands has been studying nervous system of blowflies. These insects have extremely sophisticated visual and tactile perception that is much more sophisticated than our own. De Ruyter placed a tiny tungsten probe into the fly’s head, near one of its motion-sensitive neurons to understand motion control system. With the necessary second probe that acts as a ground (and allows for a current), a nearby oscilloscope feeds the air with an audible indication of voltage. When de Ruyter runs his hand across the fly’s field of vision, the oscilloscope’s output becomes loud and continuous, like old radio static. Davidowitz illustrated how sophisticated these sensory systems are and, therefore, why they would be studied in order to model sense and control systems. Roaches run—when they can—along a wall, with one antenna touching that wall for positioning information. This system checks, feeds information, and makes the control corrections for positioning 25 times a second.