The universality-diversity paradigm is the analysis of biological materials based on the universality and diversity of its fundamental structural elements and functional mechanisms. The analysis of biological systems based on this classification has been a cornerstone of modern biology.
For example, proteins constitute the elementary building blocks of a vast variety of biological materials such as cells, spider silk or bone, where they create extremely robust, multi-functional materials by self-organization of structures over many length- and time scales, from nano to macro. Some of the structural features are commonly found in a many different tissues, that is, they are highly conserved. Examples of such universal building blocks include alpha-helices, beta-sheets or tropocollagen molecules. In contrast, other features are highly specific to tissue types, such as particular filament assemblies, beta-sheet nanocrystals in spider silk or tendon fascicles. This coexistence of universality and diversity—referred to as the universality-diversity paradigm (UDP)—is an overarching feature in biological materials and a crucial component of materiomics. It might provide guidelines for bioinspired and biomimetic material development, where this concept is translated into the use of inorganic or hybrid organic-inorganic building blocks.
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“As in political revolutions, so in paradigm choicethere is no standard higher than the assent of the relevant community. To discover how scientific revolutions are effected, we shall therefore have to examine not only the impact of nature and of logic, but also the techniques of persuasive argumentation effective within the quite special groups that constitute the community of scientists.”
—Thomas S. Kuhn (b. 1922)