Ashok Silwal

My little son and me, we were recently on a walk around the house. We stopped to watch an excavator that was working on leveling the ground moving earth.

Suddenly my little son looked at me and said:

‘Dad! It looks like an elephant with its trunk..!’

‘Yes exactly !’ I answered.. remembering me right away of an article I had read on the web some time before which intrigued me. And so we started talking about how men often copy nature , about what they learn from animals and plants…

Then, backing home after our little stroll, we settled on the bed and I told him this “story”.

To design the most amazing objects, often, it is enough to copy from the world around us. Some inventions such as fins, velcro, suction cups were born by observing the behavior of plants and animals.

In millions of years of evolution, nature found solutions to many problems. Human beings arrived later and were often inspired by what they saw.

Here are some examples… listen to me!

VELCRO: that material made of two strips that attach and detach easily and which is used to close shoes (yours too !!), bags or other fabrics. It was invented by a Swiss engineer fascinated by Alpine thistle flowers that had stuck to his dog’s fur.

ROBOTIC ARMS of certain machines are inspired by the proboscis with which elephants grab and move objects (as you observed very rightly watching at the excavator in the street.)

TRAIN LOCOMOTIVES: the shape of certain Japanese high-speed train locomotives copies the streamlined beak of the bird called kingfisher.

And there are different ways to imitate nature and the easiest is to copy something that already exists:

-The Beijing National Stadium is inspired by a nest.
-The Lotus Temple in India resembles a lotus flower.
-The artificial island of Palm Jumeirah , in Dubai, is shaped like a palm tree ……

You can copy the appearance but also the function like the tracksuit camouflé which is inspired by the ability of certain animals to camouflage themselves; or like sticky paws of geckos copied to make super sticky tape.

Technological advances help us to copy nature in an increasingly sophisticated way. ( for example, thanks to the atomic force microscope and the development of biomimicry)

At London University, materials are being designed that decompose and are therefore more sustainable. Now, they are studying a way to replicate the wings of the dragonfly, especially in the filed of prothesis.

And other fields of study in the world are:

-observing the mussels that remain attached to the rocks under water , they are trying to replicate their adhesive proteins to create a potent non-toxic glue, which could also be used to close wounds after surgery.
-watching the ducks moving in line, the transport of goods around the world can be improved, saving energy. When a duckling linds the “favorite spot” behind its mother, water resistance is reduced and same for other following ducklings. The ships therefore could travel in line like a “water train”, carrying more with less fuel.
-the roots of plants are able to suck up water and specific nutrients for growth. Scientists are locking for inspiration for new water purification techniques.
-they are also studying the skin of chameleons made up of small crystals that reflect light. Chameleon simply have to tighten or relax their skin to make it change color; and from there, scientists would like to create “intelligent artificial skin”

And they are still being studied, the suckers of the octopus, the photosynthesis, the webbed feet of ducks and geese, the flight of birds…….. to create maybe useful objects.

Nature is always a very rich source of experience and knowledge. We have to protect it and it will then teach us so many things-
And you too, can observe and maybe find some good ideas, my little scientist!

‘LET NATURE BE YOUR TEACHER.’ -William Wordsworth

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