Ever Heard of Biomimicry?
Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does Nature, because in her inventions, nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Foot of a Tokay Gecko showing
adhesive pads. Photo by David
Recently I heard an exciting talk by biologist Dayna Baumeister, the co-founder of the Biomimicry Guild. Biomimicry, I found out, refers to the emulation of technologies used by living things for human applications. In their words: Biomimicry is the practice of developing sustainable technologies inspired by ideas from Nature. It does not mean duplicating these technologies, but rather to just harvest the ideas. Existing examples of what they mean are sticky surfaces based on gecko feet and “green” buildings inspired by passive cooling in termite mounds. Many others can be found at their web site. What I found intriguing is that this mind set recognizes that all living things have solved problems of survival via their own innovative technological developments. Biomimicry parallels, but is not the same as, those approaches that copy nature, e. g., nanotechnology and biomechanics.
Termite nests in Cape York,
Queensland, Australia. Source
Alas, biomicrists have paid scant if any attention to microbes. I found this out when I asked a question after Baumeister’s talk. Isn't this an oversight that needs remedying? I am not thinking so much of copying the flagellar motor to make nanomotors, but rather am asking what do these structures tell us about improving all motors, big and small? What do bacterial nanowires tell us about conducting electricity? What does the self-assembly of viral and bacterial or cellular structures say about constructing buildings or bridges? And so on….