Throughout history mankind’s progress has been charted and referred to by his use of materials. Throughout the stone, bronze iron and steel ages these materials made a major contribution to mankind’s development. But now in the 21st century, we live in the age of materials. For technology to advance further we need to improve all sorts of materials, looking to nature for inspiration.
This exiting field of research is known by several names Bionics, Biomimetics, or Biomimicry. Wikipedia define Biomimetics as
".. the application of methods and systems found in nature to the study and design of engineering systems and modern technology. This technology transfer is desirable because evolutionary pressure typically forces natural systems to become highly optimized and efficient. A classical example is the development of dirt- and water-repellent paint (coating) from the observation that the surface of the lotus flower plant is practically unsticky for anything (lotus effect). Examples of bionics results in engineering include hulls of boats imitating the skin membrane of dolphins, sonar, radar, and medical ultrasound imaging imitating echolocation of bats."
Biomimetics has also been one of the most significant forms of inspiration for 21st century experimental computer science. Seeking Natures advice has lead to the conception and development of cybernetics, artificial neurones, artificial neural networks, and swarm intelligence. One field of experimental computing has superseded nature by simulating evolution, which has produced highly optimised solutions that have not arisen in nature. This exiting field is known as evolutionary computing (Who’d have guessed that one?).
There are countless inventions already created through the biomimetic approach. Perhaps the most famous of these was created by Swiss engineer George De Mestral in 1948, who after a walk one day, was cleaning his dog of burrs and suddenly realised how they worked, and shortly afterwards created Velcro.
As computing experts and microprocessor designers are rapidly reaching the limits of what can be done with silicone, the need for natural solutions such as those based on the human brain (neural networks) or those that use DNA to store and process data (DNA computing) becomes ever more important.
The significance of Biomimetics is perhaps said best in the following quote:
"Nature has been conducting evolutionary experiments for millions of years, so if we're lucky enough to find something close to what we require in nature, then it's very likely to have been highly optimised, and we're unlikely to do much better." -Greg Parker
Personally, I feel that this something that we should all bear in mind, one flash of inspiration from nature could benefit all of mankind forever. Anyway if reading this has sparked your interest in Biomimetics be sure to check out the following pages:
Anyway that’s it for today, I hope you’ve enjoyed and that you’ll return again soon to the wonderful world of the Wogbeast.
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