Velcro, bullet trains and robotic arms: how nature is the mother of invention

Many of the world’s most inspiring solutions have been created by scientists who stole their ideas from the natural world

Read more: What happens when humans meddle with nature?

Over millions of years of evolution, nature has worked out solutions to many problems. Humans have arrived late in the day and pinched them. For example, Velcro was invented after a Swiss engineer marvelled at the burdock burrs that got stuck to his dog’s fur; the idea for robotic arms came from the motion and gripping ability of elephant trunks, and the front of Japan’s bullet trains were redesigned to mimic a kingfisher’s streamlined beak, reducing the sonic boom they made exiting tunnels.

There are different types of mimicry, the most straightforward is the simple idea of copying something that exists in nature. Buildings are an obvious example, as outlined by research published in Nature. The Beijing national stadium is inspired by a bird’s nest, the Lotus Temple in India is shaped, unsurprisingly, like a lotus and the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai is shaped like a palm tree.

Continue reading...