Sunday, May 08, 2005

RENDEZVOUS WITH ROBBIE

This is my inaugural blog and let me introduce you to ROBBIE first. Meet ROBBIE, the hero of the first robot short story written by ISAAC ASIMOV. Yes! You guessed it!! The great ISAAC ASIMOV, father of the term ROBOTICS! Most of the modern movie makers and science fiction writers derive inspiration from ASIMOV's robot series and the foundation series. He along with Sir ARTHUR C CLARKE revolutionized science fiction writing. ARTHUR C CLARKE described artificial intelligence in the book he wrote in the early 60's. I am sure most of you must have watched the epic movie made by Stanley Kubrick in 1968. Kubrick supposedly prevented Clarke from publishing "2001 a space odyssey" before the movie was released. Most people did not understand the movie and the book. I lent this book to my English teacher when I was in my 12th grade and he asked me if I understood the meaning of the last chapter in the book. The link provided tries to explain Kubrick’s movie ( http://www.kubrick2001.com).
Most of you might ask, why a blog on science fiction and Robbie? Robbie is a landmark robot story and a landmark character, a robot that followed Asimov's three laws of robotics. It has been many years since the birth of robotics and artificial intelligence, but very few advances have been made in these fields. We havent even yet reached the stage where robots can stand up tall like humans and walk like humans. I was reading an interesting article in THE SCIENTIST about how biology helps to make robots more intelligent.
The complexity of human body is so confounding. Our brain has a network of millions and millions of neurons each connected to a specific organ or site in the body ready to transmit signals composed of very simple chemicals like acetyl choline. The neurotransmitters are such simple molecules and they function by binding to their receptors. The polarization and depolarization of neurons also occur by the opening and closing of sodium and potassium channels.

You might wonder why I have shifted so dramatically from robotics and sci-fi to biology. It is because I am a biologist by profession. I am trying to understand how polarized epithelial cells establish and maintain polarity. Does it mean electrical polarity or geographical polarity? Well it means neither. It refers to epithelial cells that have distinct apical and basolateral membrane domains separated by tight junctions. What does this mean? The apical surface of an epithelial cell is the surface that faces the external environment and the basolateral surface faces the inside. It must be clear now why epithelial cells are so important, they form the primary line of defense by protecting the underlying tissue from the external environment. The tight junctions that separate the apical and basolateral surfaces serve as a barrier against any invading micro-organisms. Why study polarized epithelial cells? They line every organ of the human body. 50% of the human total cell mass is epithelial cells. 80% of human cancers are derived from epithelial cells and cancerous cells are characterized by a loss of cell polarity.

I hope to intrigue everyone with more information soon.

ROBBIE signs off…

2 comments:

Ganesh said...

Good job Robbie
Now go and fetch !!

cosmicblob said...

Interesting - you seem to be avid reader and yeah - sounds like there is going to be a feast of scientific masala as you have put it! :-)