Copycats of Nature

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.

(Photo: Science/AAAS)


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.

Enter a caption

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.

(Photo: Darkone)
“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. (part 1 and 2)


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