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Mimic Me!

Ahuvah Sofer

Despite advances in technology and engineering, nothing competes with the natural world —no boat glides as flawlessly as a fish; no plane flies as effortlessly as an eagle

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

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Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Welcome to the world of biomimicry. The word comes from two Greek words: “bios” meaning life, and “mimesis” meaning to imitate. It refers to designs or inventions that imitate the natural world.

The core idea is really simple, yet game-changing. Despite the many advances of technology and engineering, nothing competes with the natural world — there is no boat that glides as flawlessly as a fish, or plane that flies as effortlessly as an eagle. But by observing the wonderful world Hashem created, we can learn crucial lessons, solve issues that technology is grappling with, and improve manmade products such as the swimsuit and underwater eyes in the examples above.

Biomimicry wasn’t popular until 1997, when self-proclaimed nature nerd Janine Benyus wrote her famous book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, and founded the Biomimicry Institute, an organization dedicated to studying biomimicry.

Since then, even large, famous companies have started using this concept to come up with remarkable new inventions inspired by nature. Here are some of the latest:

Fly, Fly

Today, traveling across the globe is no great shakes. But hopping on a plane wasn’t always an option. It took plenty of trial and error — often with fatal ramifications — before the Wright brothers entered the scene. Where did they get it right, where everyone else went wrong?

 

Orville and Wilbur Wright spent a great deal of time observing birds in flight until they picked up a crucial insight. They noticed that birds change the shape of their wings to turn and maneuver. The Wrights thought that if they could use this technique, and learn to warp or change a portion of the wing during flight, their plane quandary might be solved. Of course, they were right. After a couple of tweaks, the first plane was invented, and history was made

Velcro

In the 1940s, Swiss engineer George de Mestral was taking a leisurely stroll with his dog, when burrs — those pesky round plants with spiked, thorny edges — got caught in his dog’s fur and on George’s pants. After examining the troublesome plant, George realized that a replica of the burr, with its tiny hooks, could make a great adhesive. And — voilà! Eight years later, good ol’ Velcro was born. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 695)

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