Discipline of Biomimicry takes its name from the Greek word "bios" meaning life and " mimesis" meaning to imitate. We can say this field is as old as life on earth, 3.8 billion years, as organisms have been fine tuning themselves since then. We have been observing, analyzing and problem solving by looking around us ever since we have stepped on this Earth. It is an inherent nature of the human mind. All things biotic or abiotic have been our muse.
This became even more prominent for me on my trip. Let me give some examples:
In the museums I visited, at all the amazing architecture I looked at, in paintings by various artists, even the royal china at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna I could see inspiration drawn from the natural world. The royal china is painted with beautiful patterns of butterflies, flowers, fish, lobsters, hummingbirds, ducks, roosters , shells and coral. A collection of plates had Lantana aculeata , a perennial flower painted on them, Rosa indica is of course the most common preference on such items. Archduke Franz , an emperor of Vienna during 1820's actually took up gardening as a hobby since he liked Botany. His collection of dessert plates (96 pieces) had all sorts of beautiful flora and fauna. Now, these days we might not like to eat in such fancy plates but we still like to decorate our dinner tables with fresh flowers and fruits.
At the BMW museum in Munich , I was delighted to find out that the radiator grille of the BMW cars is a double oval known as a kidney because it mimics the symmetrically placed pair of kidneys in our own bodies. More so in the older models than in the newer ones.
The archaeological findings- vessels, ornaments, tools used by our ancestors, displayed at the Acropolis museum in Greece testify that mankind has learned many things from observing other species and adapting their needs accordingly.
Leonardo Da Vinci was a big proponent of learning from nature. His designs and sketches that led to numerous inventions are closely linked to designs found in the natural world. Code Atlanticus is 1,119 pages and the contents are flight of birds to weaponry to designing musical instruments, mathematics and botany. In April this year I had an opportunity to see these wonderful drawings of Da Vinci in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts.
In Barcelona, Sagrada Familia is Gaudi's ultimate tribute to nature.
At the Viktualienmarket in Munich I saw the Durian plant fruit. Well, then found out that the Esplanade theater in Singapore has it's exterior or the building skin inspired by this fruit. Durian plant uses it's semi rigid pressurized skin to protect the seeds inside. Similarly, the buildings exterior is part of an elaborate shading system that adjusts throughout the day to allow sunlight in and protects the interiors from overheating.
The ladder model of double helix of the DNA as staircases in buildings is a popular design. There is one in the courtyard of the global accounting firm KPMG in Munich.
Photovoltaic systems, which harvest solar energy are mimicking the ways a leaf harvest energy by photosynthesis. Solar cells are able to split water into hydrogen and oxygen the same way leaves do trapping sunlight in the chlorophyll.
Biologists, researchers and other science professionals, artists, designers, engineers are all practitioners of Biomimicry. By observing nature and its inner workings we can make connections between human problems and natural solutions.
Nature is inspiring next generation of drones and robots after seeing how moths cope with turbulence. Robots are being designed with bird like grasping appendages.The developments are inspired by numerous other organisms such as bats, insects even flying snakes.
Researchers are certainly taking inspiration from all corners of the animal and plant kingdom.
My this experience makes me think that anybody who is an observer of nature can " biologize" a challenge, can query the natural world for inspiration, can evaluate, can apply the scientific methods to make sure that the final design mimics nature in form, in process and in ecosystem.
So, my dear students get ready to become a bio " mimic" king.
Check out the pictures from my trip that biomimic nature.