Moselio Schaechter


  • The purpose of this blog is to share my appreciation for the width and depth of the microbial activities on this planet. I will emphasize the unusual and the unexpected phenomena for which I have a special fascination... (more)

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« Retrospective July, 2008 | Main | Pico Who? »

July 24, 2008

Ever Heard of Biomimicry?

by Elio

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)

Pads

Foot of a Tokay Gecko showing
adhesive pads. Photo by David
Clements. Source

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.

Cooling

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….

Comments

Great concept. We can learn a lot from mother nature's survival technologies and growth wisdom. I like the way single cells grow - even split - and I use it as my business growth strategy.

No worries! I'm on it! I work for the Biomimicry Guild and have been adding data into the upcoming AskNature Portal

www.AskNature.org

With a background in plant sciences and plant pathology and with some coursework (and fascination) in fungi, I am so totally in love with the little guys! No doubt about it. The toughest microbe on this earth has got to be a bacterial spore. Talk about protecting oneself! And then, there's Cryptococcus neoformans which is currently thriving on radioactive debris from the Chernobyl reactor (or what's left of it). Pseudomonas making snow and rain in the clouds? Wow. Not to fear. I'm adding them as fast as I can.

You too will be able to add your favorite microbe to the Portal. Go visit our site and see what we are up to. Cheers, Robyn

www.AskNature.org

Turn Lynn Margulis loose on 'em! She is certain that prokaryotes (sorry, Norm) were first with everything.

And she might be right!

How true!! Prokaryotes have so much to teach us...yet I feel they are often under appreciated and usually over shadowed by their multicellular friends. ...poor lil guys.

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