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Making Copies II

| On 29, Jun 2010

Jack Hipple

How many of you are old enough to remember some of the original cast episodes of Saturday Night Live? There have been several famous ones including the mimicing of Julia Child’s cooking show and bleeding all over the food she was cutting, as well as hundreds of spoofs of politicians from every party and political spectrum. One of my favorites was the one where one of the actors (Rob Schneider) went into an office area and asked someone at the copy machine and asked what they were doing, and the famous reply came back (sorry I can’t imitate the accent, etc.) that he was “making copies”.


Why do we make copies? Buy copies? Ever thought about this for more than a second? Well, they’re cheaper is the simple answer. Could we afford to pay for an original performance from one of our famous actors or actresses every time we went to a movie? Could we afford to hire Neil Diamond to come into our house or car to sing for us every time we felt like hearing one of his great songs? Have the NY Philharmonic set up on our lawn on Friday night? No, we just buy a record, CD, DVD, etc. and pretend they’re with us. Could we afford to have original copies of every handout and invoice in our organizations? Sometime we even “lip synch” because we’re too lazy to sing in real time. Making copies is a commonly used inventive principle usually used to just save money or effort. But sometimes it gets to be a more serious endeavor with a little bit of serious science behind it.


Many of you are familiiar with what we call the “placebo” effect. Someone gives you a pill and tells you that it’s a medication for what ails you and, amazingly, a small percentage of the time, the individual actually feels better because they think they have taken a new miracle drug. This happens in new drug pharmaceutical trials all the time and has to be figured into the data analysis. Let’s see how we see this “making copies” inventive principle is used in a pro-active way. Along the 440 mile stretch of Interstate 40 across Tennessee over holiday periods, the state police would love to have manned police cars every ten miles or so to pursue speeders. But that’s expensive, and besides, police like to be home with their families over the holidays just like the rest of us. If you make this drive some time, you may see lots of state police cars, but fewer than 10% of them will have people in them. But by the time you get close enough to actually notice this, you’ve slowed down because you’re not sure. Even the radar guns can be turned on randomly without people being there. Making copies of the policemen. People trying to take advantage of multipassenger express lanes frequently put dummies in the passenger seat to make it look like there are two people in the car. Making copies of passengers.


Now, let’s get really serious about this inventive principle. Let’s make copies of antibodies. Antibodies are the proteins in our bodies produced by the immune system to recognize and neutralize foreign threats like infections, allergens, viruses, and bacteria. Our body makes them all the time, but occasionally in inadequate quantitities, so that our natural system can be overwhelmed. Producing them artificially is not easy nor cheap though being able to do so would be a breakthrough in the treatment of many diseases. In the latest issue of Popular Science (http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2010-06), we see a fascinating article about the development of PLASTIC antibodies by a research team from the University of California and the University of Shizouka in Japan. This involves creating plastic anti-bodies 1/50,000th the size of the human hair by molecular imprinting antigen shaped craters into the particles which then attached themselves to the real anitgens in the blood. Our rapid development of nano and micro technology now allows relatively inexpensive duplication of what would otherwise be extremely expensive biological materials. These articifical antibodies tracked down threats and allowed mice to have a much higher survival rate. This is molecular imprinting and using the inventive principle of “making copies” (for the TRIZniks out there with your contradiction table, this is inventive principle # 26, resolving the conflict of wanting to improve “manufacturability” (system parameter #32) vs. “device complexity (parameter #36).


Rob would be proud of us–we’re “making copies” and possibly saving lives at far lower cost. We’ll have to watch and follow this development. Where and how can you use “copies” instead of expensive originals?