King Solomon is reported to have said “There’s nothing new under the sun”. He meant that although we humans think we’re pretty smart with our trinkets, inventions and contraptions, nature has already done it and often better.
Take for instance a bird – no comparitively heavy machinery or massive amounts of energy required for flight. The bumblebee with wings that shouldn’t allow it to fly; but it does. A spider’s web, with strands stronger than steel wire of the same diameter. These are just a few examples of where nature’s billions of years of evolution trumps our relatively recent forays into product development.
King Solomon made his observation thousands of years ago and it’s only now that we’re really starting to understand what he meant.
Scientists and researchers are learning to take a closer at nature when designing products, to take advantage of all the hard work that nature has already put in. Instead of thinking “how do we make this more efficient?”, they are asking “does anything in nature do this and if so, how do we copy it?” The approach is called biomimicry.
Some of the items now being modeled on elements in nature seem unrelated – such as a boat propeller modelled on a hurricane, healing broken bones faster by looking to shellfish for answers, a ceiling fan based on a seed pod from a Sycamore tree that’s twice as efficient as traditional designs and a car based on the shape of a odd fish. It’s really an amazing field. You can learn a little more about biomimicry in this article on CNN.