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Bionics is the application of principles found in nature to design engineering systems. Which (new) term would be better if we wanted to borrow some principles from technology and apply them in biology: “reverse bionics” or “inverse bionics”? (or maybe other word?)

  • Bioengineering is a discipline that applies engineering principles of design and analysis to biological systems and biomedical technologies. bioeng.berkeley.edu – Norman Edward Apr 18 '18 at 14:59
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    With that requirement, reverse bionics sounds "better", for no reason good enough to be an answer. – TripeHound Apr 18 '18 at 15:21
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    Can you please provide an example of applying the tech principles in biology? Are you talking about, for example, genetic engineering, or are you (just) trying to use tech language to describe biological phenomena? – Lawrence Apr 18 '18 at 17:02
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    I note someone has already voted to close. I do get the feeling that some people on this list are unhappy that technical English exists and feel it has no place on this list because they cannot address it themselves. This is a reasonable question, for which I think there is a clear answer. This, of course, is the one I have given, but then I happen to be involved in technical English. – David Apr 18 '18 at 19:50
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    @Lawrence — Please do not comment on topics you don't understand on the basis of dictionary definitions. As someone who has been involved in genetic engineering, I can assure you that this is a wide term that may or may not encompass the methods used to achieve what the poster refers to, but is not a description of his specific idea. He is justified in seeking a new term, and my answer explains why he should choose "reverse". – David Apr 19 '18 at 7:13
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Reverse Bionics is, I suggest, the preferred term if one wishes to be consistent with existing technical usage.

Reverse and Inverse in everyday English

Before explaining the technical precedents, it may be helpful for me to consider the different connotations of reverse and inverse in everyday English. The terms clearly have a variety of meanings, which in some cases overlap (hence the question), but the technical usage seems to have been influenced by the following ‘extremes’:

reverse: ‘to move backwards’

i.e. a sense of movement — from one thing back to another.

inverse: ‘Produced from or related to something else by a process of inversion

i.e. a sense of changing position — turning something upside down, inverting it.

Technical precedents for reverse

This is a question about technical English, so it is pertinent to look at precedents in technical English, even though the subject matter may not be familiar to all. I shall attempt to give simplified explanations.

  1. Reverse Genetics

In classical genetics one moves from an observable change in an organism (different eye colour or other characteristic resulting from an altered protein) to the gene (region of DNA), the mutation of which has caused the change in the protein. The aim is to identify and locate the particular mutated gene the product of which is responsible for the altered protein.

In reverse genetics one starts from the knowledge of the DNA of the organism and the deduction of those parts of the DNA that are genes and (by mutating it in the test tube) moves to a position where one can identify the protein that gene encodes. Hence the ideas of both movement and reversal.

  1. Reverse Engineering

I am not an engineer, but the idea here would seem to be that normally in engineering one moves from a design to a functional machine (or perhaps software).

In reverse engineering one starts from the functioning machine and attempts to ‘deconstruct’ it to reveal its design (or perhaps its software code).

  1. Reverse Transcription

This is a little more technical, but today’s educated individual should learn to speak molecular biology, rather than Latin. O tempora, o mores!

The normal direction of transcription involves movement of information from the sequence of chemical bases in DNA to that in a segment of RNA. (This RNA is generally used as a template to make proteins.)

In reverse transcription (catalysed by an enzyme entitled ‘reverse transcriptase’) the information from the sequence of chemical bases in the RNA of certain viruses (such as HIV) is moved to the DNA in the chromosomes of the host (genomic DNA), i.e. in the opposite direction to what had originally been thought the only possibility. (This allows the virus to ‘hide’ in its host, to be released by normal transcription at a suitable time.)

  • He reversed his position is not to necessarily move backwards even though it implies it..... – Lambie Apr 18 '18 at 16:52
  • @Lambie — You are correct. But I have chosen extreme definitions of the two terms (which clearly overlap) to try to explain why one of these has been previously adopted in a technical context. – David Apr 18 '18 at 19:45
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    Are you doing this on purpose or do you not understand my point? reverse engineering [one field], reverse genetics[one field] where a process is reversed within the same field. The OP is talking about taking ONE thing (technology) and putting it PUTTING it THERE (biology). If you reverse engineer a system, you start from the finished system and work backwards down to the components and finally drawings. He's is not talking about that. I think his question is confused and confusing. – Lambie Apr 18 '18 at 20:28
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    My only purpose is to help the poster select appropriate technical English. I do not know the details of his ideas, but I can imagine an example. Let us start with an engineering system using graphene, for example. This does not exist in biological systems. That may have some electrical properties that could enhance the ability of bacteria to perform some function useful to man. If the genome of the bacterium was altered to produce graphene in a particular context. This would be reverse bionics. (It would also be synthetic biology.) – David Apr 18 '18 at 20:38
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    Definitely not ‘reverse’ in that situation, which seems to me another question entirely. The word ‘reciprocal’ seems much more appropriate to me here, but whether it is right or there is anything better I couldn't say. I'd perhaps post a new question. P.S. You must be Eastern European if you are gathering mushrooms ;-) – David Apr 20 '18 at 8:55
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Hmmmm, since you are desirous of a "new" term, how about 'techanism'? :)

  • Thank you, it is interesting, but I need exactly the second word to be added to " bionics" – Diusha Apr 18 '18 at 15:19
  • Perhaps 'mechanized bionics'. Seems to flow better than 'technical bionics. – Eddie B. True Apr 20 '18 at 11:57

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