Human beings are copycats – yes we are. We copy nature all the time. Inventors, engineers, architects, artists, designers, and even musicians are copycats. We look at things in nature, see and observe how they work, and then we copy, improvise and invent new things.
Since the stone age time, man has copied nature in their everyday living. Stone Age man became copycats when they started wearing the fur of slaughtered animals to keep warm. Leonardo da Vinci copied the shape of birds to create the first sketches of flying machines 500 years ago.
Now, let’s look at all these modern day inventions which man have copied from nature.
1. Shark skin and swimsuits
Speedo Fastskin imitated the micro-structuring of the shark’s skin surface that gives swim suits a lower drag effect, and hence allow swimmers to swim faster through water – just like a shark. Based on the same principle, German company Vosschemie produces a hull paint called Haifischhaut, which reduces the drag effect and allows ships to glide more easily through water.
2. Slime Mould and Networking
Japanese research scientists have discovered that slime mould can be used to simulate the optimal network design for a transport system. This is a promising knowledge to design future transport system and computer modelling.
During the research, slime mould was placed in the middle of a map of Tokyo. The mould started growing outwards and encountered oat flakes placed over each railway station on the map. After 24 hours the mould had optimised a corridor network for transporting nutrients back to the centre that was virtually identical in design with the real Tokyo railway network.
3. Mussels & Barnacles and Superglue
Chemists are trying to copy mollusc and barnacles’ superglue. The glue that they make is not only strong against strong waves and sea current but it can be easily dissolved to enable the sea animals to move to another place.
“That is quite smart,” says Lenau. “Being able to loosen something previously fixed with superglue is a very interesting property for scientists to explore.”
4. Beaver and a fur-like rubber pelt wet suit
Engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology copied the principle behind beavers’ thick layer of blubber and fur to create a rubbery, fur-like pelts to make ‘bioinspired materials’ such as wetsuits. Such wetsuits not only keep cold at bay but it also keeps the swimmers and divers dry too.
5. Termite den copied in office building
Who would have thought that we could learn lessons from termites? Researches found out that although the temperature outside ranges from 30s to highs over 100, the inside of a termite den holds a comfortable temperature of 87 degrees.
Mick Pearce, architect of Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe, studied the cooling chimneys and tunnels of termite dens and copied those principles to the 333,000 square-foot Eastgate Centre. The effects come in the form of 90% less energy to heat and cool the building. How does it work? Large chimneys on the buildings draw in cool air naturally at night which lower the temperature of the floor slabs. During the day, these slabs retain the coolness. Hence, lesser air conditioning. Pure genius.
6. Burr spikes and Velcro
Swiss engineer George de Mestral invented Velcro in 1941 after studying the annoying burs that stuck to his dog’s furs, his socks and pants. However, it didn’t become popular until the world saw Neil Armstrong wore it on his spacesuit on TV. Now, you can find Velcro anywhere in shoes, bags, clothes, furniture and accessories.
7. From Lotus to paint
Hate to wash the outside of your house? Fret no more. A German company, Ispo, copied the phenomenon of the lotus flower and developed a paint which can push dust and dirt away. The lotus flower has micro-rough surface that naturally repels dust and dirt particles keeping its petals clean and shiny. This is because they have tiny nail-like protuberances that can fend off specks of dust. When water rolls over a lotus leaf, it takes with it anything on the surface, thus, leaving the leaf dirt-free. Using this paint, will also leave the outside of your house dirt-free and keep it shiny and bright for many years.
Well – there are more fabulous examples in the world. Read up and learn more from these pages. So, being copycats are not that bad at all.