Homo sapiens has been around for about 200,000 years, give or take. We’re well adapted to hunting and scavenging and socializing and getting by as humans. However, a lot of other living creatures can do very clever things better than us. Take flying for example. For millenia humans saw birds take to the air and longed to join them. After centuries of trial and error we finally learned their secret and soared like eagles. What else can we learn from the natural world that can help us do what other organisms have already mastered?
Using an adaptation from a living organism for our own use is known as biomimicry. Biomimicry inspired something else that you may use every day, Velcro. Inventor, George de Mestral, saw the burrs attached to his dog’s fur after a walk. He studied the burr bristles under a microscope and noticed that the little hooks on the end were snagging his dogs fur and his clothing. From this he developed a material with tiny hook-like structures that became the reusable fasteners that we know so well.
The pictures below show how the hook parts of a piece of Velcro are similar in shape to the hooks at the end of each organic burr bristle.
Janine Beyrus, author of Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, is considered the pioneer of the philosophy of asking nature the best way to do things. Her ideas have influenced scores of inventors, researchers, engineers, designers, and programmers. Here is her TED Talk from 2009 in which she convinces us how much nature has to teach us:
Janine Beyrus mentions asknature.org in her TED Talk. I hope you will go check it out and use it to get inspired to make, solve, or improve something the way nature intended.