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Biomimicry Challenge!

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Where can we look for inspiration in problem solving and design? How about nature? As Janine Benyus points out, nature has been conducting a research-and-development effort for nearly 4 billion years. What we see in our world today are the successful outcomes of that long process.

How Nature Does It

Throughout most of human history, people have imitated nature; this is now called biomimicry. In fact, the separation between human activity and nature has only recently been made possible. We now have technological advances that allow us to attempt to overcome rather than cooperate with and learn from nature.

We have much to learn from looking carefully at how nature does things. Our bird-and-plane icon (at left) highlights one such example: people succeeded in building flying machines by imitating nature. For instance, in 1948 Swiss chemist George de Mestral copied the way cockleburs clung to his dog's coat. We know this invention as Velcro.  

You can read more about biomimicry on  PlanetSEED.

Share your favorite example of biomimicry with the SEED community in this forum.  Do it by Wednesday, April 18th, and we'll give you an extra 250 SEED points!

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Carolyn Finley
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I just found this interesting article about biomimicry from one of the groups we follwo in pinterest.  I cover the top 5 articles about humans copying nature: http://www.robaid.com/bionics/top-5-articles-regarding-nature-biomimicry-in-2010.htm 

LoveLeigh
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I just thought of another excellent example of biomimicry that, once again, involves dinosaurs! This time our dino friends are paired with warriors of the middle ages. 

Meet Ankylosaurus, a sizeable beast from the Cretaceous period. (I'll call him Anky for short.)  Anky's tale contained a heavy and powerful club with bony spikes protruding from all sides.   Special tendons in Anky's tail were partially ossified (or bony) and were not very elastic, allowing great force to be transmitted to the end of the tail when it was swung. It seems to have been an active defensive weapon, capable of producing enough of a devastating impact to break the bones of an assailant.*

And now meet the medieval mace, a simple weapon used by knights and other warriors to deliver a swift and heavy blow onto their opponent.  Some maces had bony plates on their exterior, othes had spikes (known as morning stars).  

Given the chance of meeting Anky or a medival knight armed with a mace, I'd run the other direction from both.  But the pictures serve as a nice reminder of how our animal and reptile predecessors have impacted and inspired us throughout human history.

Love

 

 

 

 

Fossilized tale club from an ancient Ankylosaurus. Scary!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Carpenter, K. 2004. Redescription of Ankylosaurus magniventris Brown 1908 (Ankylosauridae) from the Upper Cretaceous of the Western Interior of North America. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 41: 961–986

rosalinamolina
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Ocean waves are also good example of biomimicry. They act like a pushing people against the shaft of each turbine producing a circular motion. The motion is then converted to electrical energy that solves energy crisis of the people.

 

Rolando Barcelon
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My Favorite Biomimicry Model started with this:  “Go, go, go away sparrows, don’t eat our rice seeds for our tomorrow!" (my personal experience).


Biomimicry or biomimetics is the examination of nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems (Wikipedia).  In short, it is an innovation inspired by nature.


One of my favorite biomimetics is the utilization of scarecrows in rice paddies. (You may watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAj-Latyx_Q).  Scarecrows can be made out of used clothes, pieces of bamboo or wood, used hats. and other things, depending on the creativity of the farmer. They are intended to scare the sparrows (major threats in the ricefields) and others so that the planted rice will give maximum seeds to harvest.  The inventor of scarecrows cannot be traced from an individual since it was the ingenuity of the human race since immemorial. 


The making of scarecrows may not be as complicated as the principles in making airplanes as inspired by the birds and helicopters as inspired by the dragonflies - but this particular innovation has saved ricefields of farmers from the attack of sparrows.


Simple yet great!


- Rolan from Quirino High School Family, Quezon City, Philippines 

 

 

p.s. I do salute to the people behind this forum!  This is a great avenue to make people stay closer to each other, consume every minute meaningfully, think tremendously, and create happy life of the professionals and others just by one comment or post here.

 

 

 

RuthWebb
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One of my favourite examples of  "biomimicry" is velcro, which was invented after the inventor, George de Mestral, looked carefully at burrs that stuck to his dog's coat! Such a simple idea and so effective and easy to use in so many places.

Tcheema
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Scientists have already developed technology to generate wind power by copying whale fins. This latest whale-inspired creation won't do much to advance science or human knowledge, but it could be a whole lot of fun. Hammacher Schlemmer's Killer Whale Submarine looks just like an Orca, with a max speed of 50 mph and the ability to spyhop and porpoise, much like a real whale. It can go to depths of up to five feet at the moment.

 

 

 

JLange
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As summer approaches, my kids are looking forward to breaking out their favorite form of biomimicry...swimming flippers!

EloyD100
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 Dolphin-Dream-(mimic)-Walker

    What do we know about our Theta ElectroEncephaloGram (EEG) waves? From the following link, it seems “their projections depend on the medial septal area" (in my words the place separating the left and right brains):


                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theta_rhythm


 Dolphins dream with their half brain (alternatively) to avoid drowning -- do they produce such Theta EEG waves?


     As a long distance runner/walker, I discovered by myself that when all the sugar (glucose or glycogen) is mainly used by muscles, there is just a minimum left for brain: on a 100 km race. After 10 hours I have difficulty calculating how many kilometers remain from the distances marked on the road; I also have trouble with binocular vision (dominant right eye) not being efficiently corrected by the occipital vision area -- getting two different images from the two eyes not on the same plane. As a provisional solution I run closing alternatively each eye – this is the best choice for equilibrium. It seems that under such extreme conditions the brain produces the above Theta EEG waves.
 

   I am going to apply dolphin-half-brain-dream-walk next time I participate in a 100 km: this is my biomimicry contribution (to be continued…).


  Just dream with me, cheers,
Eloy DIAZ (SRFE-Clamart – France)
 

APepin
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When I entered the research center I wanted to investigate the case of biomimicry (thanks TED, these guys are inspiring!!) in which you can imitate the seashell's growth-control chemicals. In our case the molecule is called TPA. It is fully reproduced already but nevertheless interesting for our industry as we could (theoretically) use it as a carbonate scale inhibitor (seashells are no more nor less than carbonate scale). So, on top of being extrarodinary captivating (the Fibonacci sequence is now famously featured on TV) there is even a use for our industry. My belief is that with millions of years of careful R&D Mother Earth has so much to teach us we should pay more attention to Her log books!! ^_^!

STetreau
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Interesting posting, all! As a mountaineer, an example I want to give is the invention of the material GORETEX, which has totally revolutionized outdoor clothing. Now outdoor jackets for mountaineering, boats, etc.. are lighter, stronger, more breatheable, more resistant to humidity. All of this inspired by the most wonderful protective layer ever, that nature created: the human skin!

Stef

Jose Ysea
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In nature we can learn many things that will facilitate our activities. We must consider more and more the need to imitate everything around us, because there are ways, mechanisms and natural processes that can give us untold benefits and therefore lead to a harmonious relationship between man and environment.


I'm impressed by the design of mecanimos (tractors) imitating the arachnids.

aagarwal8
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This one is intersting: Biomimicry provides design methodologies and techniques to optimize engineering products and systems. 

An example is the re-derivation of Murray's law, which in conventional form determined the optimum diameter of blood vessels, to provide simple equations for the pipe or tube diameter which gives a minimum mass engineering system.

 

TSun
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The first example that came to mind is how the radar and sonar were inspired by animal echolocation, e.g., that of a bat

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_echolocation

 

Similarly, a 'compound eye camera' from those of insects, e.g., a fly.

http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2005ApOpt..44.2949D

 

Rolando Barcelon
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I'm so excited to watch this activity.  I hope I can participate in this together with the Quirino High School family.

Many thanks for this innovation! Great!

 

Lailiah Binti Harun
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My favorite would be the Boring Surgery.

It's all about the wood-borer wasp laying an egg.

People imitate the way the insects drill into dying pines to slip their young into the tree’s softer insides and then we use the same technique in brain surgery. wow ...

Credit: Mother of Invention

lashaunda98
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I was always fascinated by the Fibonacci sequence and all the things that could be related back to this sequence of numbers,.. it all had to be connected in some way, and I wondered why everything else in life wasn't as simple as that.

I think that the Fibonacci number sequence is biomimcry that humans can take from nature. From flowers and sea shells to the actual solar system we live in.  The Fibonacci numbers are Nature's numbering system. They appear everywhere in Nature, from the leaf arrangement in plants, to the pattern of the florets of a flower, the bracts of a pinecone, or the scales of a pineapple. The Fibonacci numbers are therefore applicable to the growth of every living thing, including a single cell, a grain of wheat, a hive of bees, and even all of mankind.


GOD has given us the designs in Nature as great blessings. Imitating them will direct mankind toward what is right and practical.  The scientific community understands that nature’s designs are an enormous resource and that these can be expanded and put to use in daily life. Many scientific publications accept that natural structures represent a huge resource for showing mankind the way toward superior designs. Advances in science and technology are leading to knowledge and capabilities that are multiplying every year. These improvements have already and will lead to capabilities to better understand and implement Nature’s principles in more complex ways.

Once we (humans) get a total understanding and appreciation for the natural process and flow of Nature, then as a society we will achieve higher standards as well as be more accountable for our plant and surroundings.

jones4
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I was turned on to a cool Website - Mother Nature Network (http://www.mnn.com). The have a fascinating article regarding lotus flowers, and their unique abilty to repel dust and dirt particles becuase of the flower's micro-rough surface. A german company, ISPO, spent a number of years researching the phenomenon and subsequently developed an exterior paint for houses......it reduces the need to wash the outside of the structure.

As I leave on the eve of my moving into a new home, I am ever mindful of just how much upkeep a house takes. I think this would be an excellent product to explore, and if available, purchase for use. In our hectic, too-little-time daily life, the more we can make our environment self-sustaining, the better.

CDamas
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Very interesting Website indeed! Thank YOU for sharing!

CDamas
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Andy Goldsworthy's work is for me an inspiring example. Just watch, feel and sense:

... more information about the Artist's work: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Goldsworthy

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Twhite688
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Imagine observing and allowing nature to inspire innovation and invention to tackle real-world problems. Leonardo Di Vinci was inspired by birds he observed when he designed the first flying machines.  Today, biomimicry is being utilized to improve construction design of buildings, products, and travel by applying concepts in nature to improve efficiency.  The original design of the Japanese bullet train created large clapping sounds when they emerged from tunnels.  As a result, trains were slowing down to reduce the noise pollution generated when exiting the tunnels.  Engineers utilized the beak design of the kingfisher which dives seamlessly into the water as a design model for a new nose cone.  This new design allowed the bullet train to maximize efficiency by traveling at constant speeds of up to 310mph.  This fusion between biology and technology to solve environmental issues was recently discussed during a TED presentation in Dubai. 

Biomimicry 2.0 – TEDx Dubai Presentation  (Nicholas Sykes)
Click link above for video

IMarchenko
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Wow, what a cool topic! It is so interesting to read all the posts, and how things in our every day life have been inspired.

I started looking online and could not choose one to write about because they are all so interesting.

I love photography and got my first DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera a couple of years ago. I've taken a course on phorography before and learned such photography terms as aperture, f stop, shutter speed and depth of field. But it was not until I had a lasik surgery done on my eye that I started thinking about how a camera's lens is modeled after a human eye. Before the operation, I was very nearsided and could not see the objects far away no matter how hard I would try to focus. After the surgery, although not perfect, my vision improved greately from where it was before and I noticed how I could manipulate my eye to focus and sharpen on things close to me, while bluring the background images and vice versa, just like I do with my camera.

 

And now the cameras have become so advanced, that they far surpass the abilities of a human eye.

CDamas
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Wonderful Iryna! Me too I was nearsighted so I did the operation. Just amazing!

Please check out my doctor's Website, he is really a very good reference in this field: http://www.gatinel.com/ (in French).

http://www.gatinel.com/chirurgie-refractive/principes-de-la-correction-des-defauts-refractifs/correction-de-la-myopie/ (in French).

 

PSanchez11
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The dragonfly is another good example for biomimicry, they were the inspiration for de helicopter.

rstowe
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Camouflage is another great example of biomicry.  Animals have been using camouflage to conceal themselves from predators.  While humans are using it to conceal themselves in war time and also recreation activities such as hunting, or paintball.  On the military side camouflage has been evolving for decades.  From the simple olive drab uniforms use in WWII to the more elibrate digital patterns that are in use now such as the Marine Corps digital pattern that was developed by the Marine Corps and is now named MARPAT. 

 

Maya Shotashvili
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Have you ever wanted to climb walls and ceilings like a gecko?  Gecko tape, a fun example of biomicry, may be the way to do it. 

The secret to a gecko's spider-man-like abilities is setae- millions of keratin hairs on the bottom surface of the gecko's feet.  These flexibly little hairs work together to create an adhesive effect strong enough to hold a gecko OR a human upside down!  Researchers are currently using the gecko tape for underwater and space exploration.  But perhaps one day soon, our kids will be literally jumping off the walls.

 

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Nice picture!

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Great picture of the gekko on the ceiling! The gekko tape is one of the examples of biomimicry on a great design site called designboom. I particularly enjoyed the solution to the "boom" emitted by Japan's bullet train when it leaves the station at such high speed. Can you guess what model in nature provided the answer? A bird—the kingfisher!!!

Carolyn Finley
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As a swimmer in high school I was fascinated with all of the different types of swimsuits there are out there for competition swimmers.  Thanks to biomimicry, SPEEDO has revolutionized swimsuits and increased their effectiveness in the pool. When SPEEDO went looking to design a new suit for Olympians they turned to the shark.  Much like humans, sharks are not the most hydrodynamic creatures underwater if you look merely at their body shape.  The shark has dentricles, or V-shaped ridges, that allow the water to pass over the skin quickly and reduce drag in water. SPEEDO mimicked this shark adaptation and has incorporated the V-shaped ridges on their best competition swimsuits. The SPEEDO Fatskin LZR is now worn by 89% of Olympic medal winners. I don’t know about you, but looking to a shark for inspiration sounds like a golden idea!

LoveLeigh
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I need only drive down the street to see a terrific example of biomimicry. Well, drive down the street and then go back in time a few hundred million years!!!  

My four year old son has recently developed an obsession with dinosaurs.  One dinosaur in his collection is dimetrodon - a plant eater that had a high sail on its back. According to dinosaur experts, this feature was likely used to regulate its body temperature by absorbing the warmth of sunshine.  A dimetrodon could reposition himself to absorb the most sunlight while the sun eased across the sky.

This reminded me of the sun-tracking solar panels down the street from my house. Each time I drive by the panels, they are situated in a different position. In the morning they are facing the East, and in the evening they are tilted toward the West.  

How genius that we can create such efficient forms of alternative energy?  And how lucky for dimetrodon that he had them built into his body?! 

Images courtesy of Wikipedia and Google Maps.

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My favorite example of biomimicry is one that is found on the SEED Web site within the "How Nature Does It" piece "Cool Termites".

I like it not only because these tiny creatures have found a way to stay cool in desert heat -and that is an excellent example of organically reducing energy usage and costs, but also because it reminds us that there is a place for every creature on our planet.

If you ever wonder why the circle of life includes termites or other pesky creatures, perhaps we should reconsider what we have to learn from them.

Simone

 

 

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Interesting! Some plants behave in a similar way, through a process called heliotropism. Here is a link to a YouTube video of an extreme example. This set of three flowers is located above the Arctic Circle. Here, during part of the year, the sun goes aorund the sky sort of horizontally, giving practically a full 24 hours of daylight. As these flowers track the circling sun, they are being "wound up" as their stems become more and more twisted.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MYJEm99MYQ

 

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Is it the same phenomenon with sunflowers? They seem to turn their heads during daylight to follow the sun. In fact, in French, they are named "tournesol" which litterally means "turn to the sun".

On the opposite, what about plants that only bloom at night? is that the opposite phenomenon?

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Thierry - your question about night-blooming plants might be a great one for our experts!!!  yes