Biomimicry – Designing a Modern World Through the Wisdom of Nature
The Wisdom of Creation is the Great Teacher
Today there are many inventors and design engineers that are looking at the natural world and the creatures that live in it for solutions to complex problems. These solutions are benefiting mankind in many ways.
The Almighty has placed tremendous amounts of information in the natural realm. His design solutions boggle the mind to even comprehend much less derive from our own effort. More to the point, all these patterns, designs and solutions were placed into the creation at the beginning of time when people did not yet need them knowing that later we would need them and be able to discover and to copy them. This is the scientific field now being studied called biomimicry, but it also extends further to non-living materials as well.
A complete list of these examples does not exist and probably will never be compiled because we continue to discover new ones.
A classic example is the flagellum of some single-celled life-forms. The flagellum is a complete inboard motor and propeller system that enables them to “swim” through a liquid. The entire unit consists of a rotating shaft with two bearings for stability; an electric motor with an electrical control system; a molecular clutch; and, a filament with a coupler that acts as a propeller. Eight thousand such motors would fit across one human hair. The motor can rotate up to 100,000 per minute and is capable of stopping and reversing directions in less than one rotation.
Researchers have successfully taken the photosynthetic proteins from plants and fabricated solar electric generating panels. What is more interesting is that these panels, being made from living materials, can heal themselves!
Another example is the Bombardier Beetle. Various species of Bombardier Beetle are found around the world. They are about one-half inch long. Inside their bodies they have chambers and they produce various chemicals along with both reactant inhibitors and accelerants. When these beetles are attacked they initiate a chemical reaction that takes place just outside their bodies. The beetle has produced hydroquinones and hydrogen peroxide which is mixed to produce a series of violent explosions. The temperature reaches 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) which turns the water left over from the reaction into steam; then at up to 500 times per second; and speeds that range from eight up to 43 m.p.h. (13 to 69 k.p.h.); through a twin set of spray nozzles whose direction can be controlled; these beetles spray hot toxic chemicals onto their attacker. The attackers have learned the hard way to stay away from the scalding irritating defense system.
In essence, the Bombardier Beetle has a small rocket engine built into its body. The design of its internal chambers and defense mechanism has been used to improve the ignition systems of gas turbines and the inflation systems for automobile air bags.
The bombardier beetle, however, is not the only example of such a chemical defense system to be found in nature. Sea slugs also rapidly mix chemicals stored in their bodies in order to produce a defensive cloud around them containing hydrogen peroxide, ammonia, various acids and a purple dye.
Usually living in total darkness 3,000 feet below sea level (but also used in seawater aquariums), a sponge, known as the Venus Flower Basket grows its own optical fiber filaments. The sponge lights the fibers in order to attract prey. Their optical fiber filaments are superior to man-made filaments. The sponge’s filaments are thinner than a human hair (thinner than man-made optical fibers); are manufactured at low temperatures versus man-made filaments that require heating glass to 3,000 F (1,600 C); and, have an organic coating that allows them to be tightly bent and can even be tied into a knot, while man-made filaments are far more fragile and cannot be tightly bent.
In addition, the Venus Flower Basket has a symbiotic relationship with a small shrimp species that lives within the sponge for protection and in reciprocity the shrimp eats debris that accumulates within the sponge thus keeping the sponge clean.
Cosmetic manufacturers have started using small reflective scales patterned after butterfly wing scales in order to improve the iridescent qualities of their products.
A new series of military drone aircraft are being patterned after the dragonfly. Dragonflies have tremendous abilities to change directions rapidly, hover or even fly backwards. This “technology” may soon help build better helicopters, too. [Dragonflies can carry as much as 15 times their weight while human designed aircraft can only carry up to a weight equal to that of the aircraft.]
Presently, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are mimicking the multi-lens eyes of bees, flies and other insects in order to build improved lenses for use in miniature cameras and medical diagnostic equipment.
Speaking of scientists mimicking insects:
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, John Hopkins, Harvard and Stanford are building robots for space exploration (Mars and Lunar landers), military applications (detection of explosives and “spying”), toxic spill cleanups and other uses to prevent injury to first responders based on the superior terrain mobility of six and eight-legged critters.
Such use of the “designs” found in insects is not limited to merely the insect nor to modern times. The entire wood paper industry, from toilet tissue to card board boxes, owes its existence to the American Paper Wasp. In 1719, the French scientist René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur wrote:
“The American wasps form very fine paper. … They teach us that paper can be made from the fibers of plants without the use of rags and linens, and seem to invite us to try whether we cannot make a fine and good paper from the use of certain woods.”
In Israel, and other arid countries, companies are now making “moisture collectors” designed upon the use of spider silk and the textured surface of the back of the African Stenocara Beetle to condense dew from fog and natural humidity. In Israel, an artificial spider web 20 feet across can collect up to 20 gallons of water per night!
Almost everyone knows that spider web is five times stronger than steel on a weight-for-weight basis. New research into artificially replicating spider polymer threads is now one of the highest priorities in biomimicry. The new products range from bridge making materials to the making of bulletproof vests. Spider silk is even being used as a template to produce nano-sized glass tubes for communication systems (nano-fiber optics), specialized microscopes and nano-sized test tubes for experimenting with single molecule chemical reactions and the making of miniature chemical detectors (biohazards and explosive materials).
Some new office buildings are using ventilation systems based upon the design of air circulation channels found in African termite mounds. Energy efficiency reaches up to a 90% saving in electricity over conventional architecture.
The C-shaped teeth used on modern chainsaws was “invented” in 1946 by unnamed timber beetle larvae. When Joseph Buford Cox observed how timber beetle larvae ate efficiently through a fresh wood stump, he patented a new design for a “chipper chain” based upon the design of the larvae’s mandibles. The chain design is still used widely.
Moving up to larger and more complex creatures, it was the observation of bird flight that eventually drove men to design flying machines. Starting perhaps with the Egyptians, to Leonardo da Vinci, to William S. Henson, John Stingfellow, Cl`ement Ader, Samuel Langley and the Wright Brothers man has wanted to “fly like the birds.”
Each kind of bird is designed to fly most efficiently in order to minimize energy use, a necessity for survival. Engineers have determined that birds are created with an aeronautical design, to reduce drag and turbulence, and that they have a mathematical basis referred to as the “Strouhal” number. With only small alterations to the formula it also applies to fish and water mammals as they, too, “fly” through water. The Strouhal number is used to make modern aircraft designs fuel efficient.
The world was designed for the flight of four kinds of creatures: birds, mammals, reptiles and insects. The echolocation abilities of bats, dolphins and other creatures still far exceeds that of human inventionand we are still learning new things about echolocation from the animal kingdom. Guided missile systems hit their target today because human engineers found out that the “parallel navigation” system used by bats was a superior navigation system to that of the normal human “constant bearing” system.
The study of bat echolocation is being used to create new devices to assist blind people “to see” objects around them. This includes a sonar walking stick that allows the blind user to know the size, direction and distance to objects near them.
When traveling in a Shinkansen, a “Bullet-train” is often used. Similar faster trains exist in China and Europe. Such trains can travel at speeds in excess of 200 m.p.h. Their speed causes problems when exiting tunnels and, of course, there is a need to be energy efficient. What was the solution? It was “for the birds.”
Many birds which dive into water to catch fish seem to enter the water seamlessly, in particular the Kingfisher. If you will notice the next time you see a high-speed train it has an exaggerated long nose that is based on the design of the Kingfisher’s bill. It greatly reduces turbulence when exiting tunnels and reduces energy usage by 15 %.
Some modern civil and military aircraft are known as “canards” or “delta wing” designs. These aircraft have large “delta” or triangular-shaped wings in the rear and small triangular-shaped control surfaces in the front. Examples would include: military fighters – American F-15, French Dassault Rafale, EU Eurofighter Typhoon, Russian Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-47; and, civil aircraft – the original Wright Flier, Beech Starship, Freedom Aviation Phoenix and Rutan Model 76 Voyager.
The original design for such aircraft, however, is a little older than most people realize. The original design for canard aircraft is revealed in the discovery of a gliding reptile fossil, Sharovipteryx mirabilis, found in Kyrgyzstan in 1971.
You may have seem fighter planes with wings that can be moved in and out while in flight in order to adapt to flying better at slower or faster speeds. Examples of such aircraft include the General Dynamics F-111, Grumman F-14, B-1A, MiG 23, MiG 27 and Su-24. The advantages of “wing morphing” are being heavily researched by NASA and the military.
But, wing morphing is normal for swifts. It enables the European Swift to migrate from Europe to Africa (in a lifetime they may fly 2.7 million miles = 100 trips around the world = six round trips to the moon). Their aerobatic abilities are legend, they can sleep while gliding and they have a normal “operational altitude” of one mile.
Many new products are being produced following the “designed” structures found within marine organisms.
Mercedes-Benz and DaimlerChrysler have designed very safe and highly fuel efficient cars based on the body style of the Boxfish.
According to scientific belief, eyesight has evolved in four major categories of organisms: mammals, birds, fish and insects. This is because each of these four has different forms of “eyes.” Little attention is given to other animals that have “sight” but no eyes.
“The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The LORD has made both of them.” Proverbs 20:12 NASB
Almost everyone knows about various kinds of “starfish,” however, far fewer are aware of their “lowly cousin,” called a Brittlestar. The entire body of the Brittlestar is covered with thousands of tiny “microlenses,” that are only one tenth the width of a human hair (0.0004 inches in diameter). These lenses unite to form a single light collecting “compound eye.” In addition, these lenses are “perfectly” aligned to compensate for any distortion normally associated with the use of calcite crystal lenses. This “eye” allows the Brittlestars to find food and avoid enemies.
Bell Laboratories has studied the Brittlestar’s optical system and concluded that their microlense design is advanced beyond any optical device in current manufacture. Further studies are being done to see if the Brittlestar can show the way to fabricate better fiber optic telecommunication systems.
Cuttlefish are world renown for their ability to change their color appearance quickly, a form of natural camouflage. They are able to do this because they have elastic sacs filled with color pigments, muscles to expand and contract the sacs and leucophores, the equivalent of internal mirrors. Cuttlefish did not design this system, but they can control it. They can change their colors in only one second in order to blend in with their surroundings. Several of the world’s militaries are studying this system to improve their camouflage equipment and perhaps even to make some objects appear to be “invisible,” an obvious advantage to the first country to figure out how to do it.
Those who watch the summer Olympic swim competitions are well aware that the winners usually have long arms and short torsos. Recent research has been done to develop swim suits that will allow people to swim even faster. These suits cover the entire body and have a rough surface, not a smooth surface. Why? The new swim suits have a surface texture that mimics that of shark skin (tiny V-shaped ridges). This design reduces frictional drag in the water as well as reducing turbulence that would slow a swimmer down.
There are those who say that lobsters do not even have a brain. Actually they do, but it’s about the same size as that of a grasshopper. It is ironic then, that the US Department of Homeland Security funded a research grant to study lobster eyes. The research allowed the development of a device that can actually “see” through walls!
Human eyes focus received light onto a retina by bending it through a clear cornea and lens, the basis for the development of the camera. The lobster has a compound eye that reflects light in order to superimpose multiple images onto the same spot. While insects have compound eyes that are made up of many six-sided lenses, the lobster has square rectangular tubes that are arranged in order to be able to see in a 180 degree field of view. The interior walls of these rectangular tubes are fully mirrored, somewhat like the most modern home skylights. With up to 3,000 of these tubes per eye, the image that is seen by the lobster is an intense one. In addition, the reflecting tubes gather enough light to give a sensitivity of up to 1,000 times that of human eyes, a useful tool when trying to see in murky water or low light levels.
Mimicking this design found in nature has lead to the development of new science tools. Here are a couple of examples. The University of Leicester (UK) has designed a new X-ray telescope for space research. The Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate has created an imaging device known as LEXID (Lobster Eye X-ray Imaging Device). The device can see objects through walls of various thicknesses and made from various materials. Additional uses will be found for this technology in a wide spectrum of areas, such as archaeology and paleontology.
The shellfish mussel produces glue that is a modern marvel. The glue adheres under water and is strong, long lasting and biodegradable. No chemist has been able to reproduce it completely. Specific components of the glue have been extracted and used to fabricate surgical adhesive.
The US Space Shuttle program has just been shut down. Over the 30 years of Space Shuttle operations, billions of people around the world have seen its multi-jointed arm performing a diverse range of tasks, from ferrying astronauts from one location to another, to releasing and retrieving satellites. During all those hours of TV coverage how many people realized that the arm was designed in Canada and patterned after the arm of an octopus?
Red Abalone: everyone loves to see their shells, with their beautiful mother-of-pearl (nacre) interiors, available for sale as decorations in local stores. The Red Abalone were allowed to be over hunted back then and now they are either totally protected, or their hunting is strictly limited. Long before English castles and the Egyptian Pyramids were built, the abalones were using an ingenious composite brick and mortar system to build their shells.
Abalone shells are made out of about one million layers of microscopic bricks consisting of calcium carbonate and a mortar with a protein base. Their mortar allows the brick layers to flex slightly to absorb the shocks, strains and stresses that their shells must endure from ocean waves. Interestingly, the bricks and mortar have a synergetic effect because the composite is stronger than either one used separately.
Scientists and materials engineers are trying desperately to artificially reproduce this structure but at this time have failed miserably. If the abalone’s shell structure is ever reproduced with man-made materials it would have many uses from artificial bone grafts to stronger lightweight improved body armor, airplanes and automobiles.
Going from small sea life to large sea life: all modern submarines, starting with Robert Fulton’s Nautilus in 1800 to the latest nuclear sub, have been designed and engineered to be similar in shape to whales. The rounded blunt nose of both minimizes the turbulence and noise made by an object while being pushed through water. Large ships, from oil tankers to cruise ships, have a rounded blunt projection just below the water line at the front of the bow because it is more fuel efficient than the simpler pointed bow of previous designs (done by people). The control fins of the submarine and the whale are similar, as are their rear mounted propulsion systems.
While all this is interesting and fairly obvious to any observant person, many people are not aware of the recent research being done to analyze the shape of the “bumps” (tubercles) that are found on the front edge of Humpback whale’s front flippers and their “faces” (the front of their heads).
Humpback whales are intelligent and artistic marine creatures; after all, they “sing.” Admittedly, they are not the prettiest of the whale species. Their extremely long front flippers, one-third as long as their bodies, and faces are covered with what some people have described as “whale acne.” Of course, it isn’t acne at all. They are, however, one of the most graceful swimmers of the whale species.
The bumps or tubercles are highly designed structures that are being studied to improve the efficiency of machines from electricity-generating wind turbines and tidal turbines, to large low-speed high-efficiency industrial fans, to quieter fans in laptop computers. The tubercles are evenly spaced, following a mathematically precise pattern; and, they reduce in size from large to small as they extend from the whale’s body out to the end of their flippers.
Why would Humpbacks need flippers that are so long and have these bumps/tubercles on the leading edge of the flipper? Humpbacks hunt schools of fish in “whale packs” and they need to maneuver in tight turns and with quick banking, similar to the way fighter planes attack each other in air. Their flippers are used like wings in the water, and the tubercles give them the extra lift they need when turning during their hunts.
The tubercles reduce drag, increase lift and create counter-rotating vortices: all of which are beneficial traits for “wings” that are passing through air or water at slow speeds. Under these conditions, the tubercles increase flow over the wing by 25% and reduce power consumption by 25% – at the same time.
There are many uses for strong lightweight materials; from military bulletproof vests made of Kevlar, to the fuselages of commercial airplanes, to the manufacture of Ski Nautique boats. In order to make cost effective strong lightweight building products we often use layers of materials that are glued together at alternating right angles. The best example would be plywood.
The study of dinosaur fossils has shown that some dinosaur species had “armor plates” on their bodies, presumably used for defense. Analysis of these plates reveals that they were not heavy hard boney plates, like those of living crocodile species, rather they were made from crisscrossed collagen fibers called fibrils (a triple helix of protein molecules used as connective tissue; the most common protein in mammals, it totals 25% to 35% of the whole-body protein content; it is used to make tendon, ligament, skin, cornea, cartilage, bone, blood vessels, gut and intervertebral discs). Thus, these armored dinosaur species were covered with their own biologically made form of fiberglass. Who taught them how to do that?
It is well known that various amphibians and lizards have the ability to regrow lost body parts. They can regenerate tails or limbs lost while escaping from predators. At this time, this ability is seldom seen in mammals or people. How to artificially induce this process in mammals and people is at the cutting edge of medical research. A possible breakthrough is no longer in the realm of science fiction but is a genuine possibility.
After all, we were created originally with a perfect immune and healing system. The obvious advantages to amputees, from wounded soldiers to accident victims, will continue to drive the funding of this research.
There are, however, a few examples of regrow abilities found in mammals. The annual regrowth of antlers in deer, elk and moose are such examples. Antlers are lost each year, but regrow the next year at a phenomenally fast rate. Antlers are a boney material that grows at a rate of three quarters of an inch to an inch per day. Contrast that to the normal growth rate for fingernails of between one and two inches per year and you begin to see that the regrowth of bone can happen quickly under the right circumstances.
Medical research into the chemistry involved in stimulating antler regrowth has the potential to provide the information necessary to induce regrowth of limbs and organs in people. The same research has the potential for the development of useful reversal techniques, preventing or reversing the loss of various tissues. This research could give provide new treatment methods for arthritis, osteoporosis and other inflammatory diseases.
Have you ever noticed that the soles of your athletic shoes and the pads on dogs paws look alike? There is a good reason for that. In 1935, Mr. Paul Sperry noticed that while his smooth soled shoes would slip on watery surfaces, his cocker spaniel had no problem walking next to him on the same surface. Later, Sperry took a very close look at the paws of his dog and saw that there were wavelike grooves built-in to the pads. He went on to found a shoe company marketing his “new” design to sailing enthusiasts.
A similar thought comes to mind when thinking about automobile tires. The grooves, the tread design, allow shoes or tires to deform or flex slightly which then “pumps” or channels water out from under the shoe or tire. This pumping action increases the grip on the surface underneath.
Most people in the USA are familiar with the GEICO insurance company mascot, the GEICO gecko. Geckos not only walk on wet surfaces, they can walk up a smooth wall, and even run across a smooth ceiling, while hunting insects.
Geckos are able to do their acrobatic feats because their feet are covered with half a million setae, tiny brush-like projections which use both the weak van der Waals bonds and capillary force to adhere to any wet or dry surface. The combined adhesive force allows the Gecko to stick to a ceiling with up to 400 times the force necessary to hold the Gecko’s body weight. (What Gecko first learned how to use the van der Waals force?)
Everyone has heard of, and most have used at one time or another, Velcro. Velcro was invented in 1948 by a Swiss electrical engineer, George de Mestral. He patterned Velcro after the natural Alpine weed burrs (seeds) that hooked onto his clothes while hunting.
Soon, however, a commercial version of the Gecko’s foot may allow humans to walk across a ceiling and rival Velcro in its usefulness. “Gecko tape” has already been made and tested. It works well for a few times, but then the adhesion breaks down due to water contaminating the surface of the tape. Further refinement of the tape, however, holds the promise that it will be as good as the natural Gecko’s feet. Such a material might be used in surgery, glue-free adhesive tape and building materials.
Wet tree frogs also adhere to the underside of wet surfaces, but they do it in a very different way than the Gecko. The tree frog uses bumps on its feet to achieve “dry friction” and a mucus secretion to achieve “wet friction.” This hybrid design is effective whether the surface is rough, smooth, wet or dry. Research into this dual mechanism may lead to improvements in tires designed for many purposes.
The human body may well be the greatest source of information into creations engineering ability. Human beings are so proud when they develop miniaturized electronic storage devices. Remember when the first memory sticks (a.k.a. Pin Drive, Flash Drive, Thumb Drive) came on the market? We started with 256k of memory, then in six months it was up to 512k of storage, and from then it was storage that started to be made in the megs and gigs. Today [October, 2011] you may buy these USB storage devices in sizes up to 256 GB(!).
Our internal storage devices are bit more sophisticated and with much larger storage capacities than our measly technological efforts can attain. The most compact storage devices are manufactured at the atomic/molecular level. Chemical storage of information is the most compact way possible to store information. A single gram of DNA holds as much information as 1,000,000,000 CDs. Yes, that is one trillion CDs.
Creation’s primary storage device for biological life forms is DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid). What is really intriguing is that the DNA alphabet consists of only four characters.
Most human cells have nuclear DNA that contains three gigabytes of information (3 billion pieces of information). There is an average of about 50 trillion cells in a human body. So the information stored in a typical human body is about 150,000,000,000,000,000 bytes.
Engineers and scientists are working hard trying to develop computers that use DNA storage technology. Such computers would work at cooler temperatures and store far more information than to today’s “crude” devices. “Crude,” that is, compared to God’s designs.
Alexander Graham Bell designed the first working telephone based upon the design of the human eardrum. The human eardrum is sensitive enough to “feel” a movement in or out equal to the width of a single atom. In truth, Bell engineered the telephone, the microphone and the hi-fi speaker based upon the human eardrum.
The use of fingerprints for identification of individuals is based upon 35 specific measurable components. The more advanced identification systems use the human eye’s iris. Why? The human iris has 266 measurable components and cannot be tampered with to change identification.
Fingerprints are also used for identification, of course. But, our fingerprints were designed to be useful for more than one reason. The grooves amplify the vibrations produced by friction with different textured surfaces. The grooves amplify these vibrations in exactly the range where our sense of touch is the greatest. The amplification is 100 times more than if we had smooth skin on our fingertips. And, the swirls allow the vibration information to be felt when moving over surfaces in any direction. Eventually, this design may be incorporated into prosthetic hands and feet.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris was designed by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World’s Fair. What most people never think about is that the four support legs and the shape of the Tower were based upon turning four human femurs upside down and having them come to a common point.
People often lick a fresh cut. It seems a natural reaction and perhaps for no more reason than just an attempt to prevent blood from getting on our clothes. It is far more important than that. Human saliva contains histatins, simple proteins that have infection fighting properties. Human saliva also contains compounds that cause skin cells to close over a wound. You may have noticed that small cuts or sores inside the mouth heal quickly with little if any scarring than cuts on the outside skin. So, if you have a small cut be sure to lick it!
There is a huge market in the world for skin care products. This is for both cosmetic and medicinal reasons. But, the best skin care product is made inside a mother’s womb and covers her baby. At birth, babies are covered with Vernix caseosa. Vernix caseosaserves many purposes. It lubricates the birthing process, it moisturizes the skin (it is 80% water) and it contains vitamin E (promoting skin health). An artificial form of this paste-like substance is being sought after and will be marketed as “nature’s perfect skin cream.”
It would be remiss not to mention the wonder of creation’s designs in plant life.
The Japanese are well known for the art of folding paper into the shape of various objects, called origami. God did them one better. Consider the intricate and delicate leaf folding found inside the buds of trees like Beech and Hornbeam. The pattern of folding designed by God is now used to make expanding solar panels for satellites and the International Space Station.
About two-thirds of our medicines are derived from plant materials. There are over 3,000 plants which are known to contain cancer fighting ingredients. Ethnobotany is a recognized area of research and uses the knowledge of various cultures that has been acquired over the centuries. Animal products are also included in a long list of useful medicinal products. Through trial and error, people have determined the usefulness of various plants for medicinal purposes.
A short list would include:
Aloe vera for burn treatment
Calabar bean for Glaucoma treatment
Dandelion for digestive problems
Ginger has antiviral properties
Pacific Yew for cancer treatment
Sankerfoot plant for hypertension treatment
Wassabi plant has anti-infection properties
Willow tree bark gave us Aspirin
Bee stings reduce arthritis pain
Manuka honey is useful in treating Staph infections
Pig heart valves are good for human replacements
Saw-scaled vipers provide anticoagulants
There is a distinct difference between the “useful” plants which are intentionally cultivated, such as corn, wheat, trees and herbs; and, those plants referred to as “weeds.” By definition, weeds are: “A wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.” The world was created with some useful plants designed with built-in defense mechanics against weeds.
Farmers spend a lot of money cultivating crops, and often their cultivation requires the use of herbicides to kill weeds that are robbing the crop of nutrients and water. Naturally growing sorghum and fescue produce natural pesticides in the soil around them. This action is called allelopathy.
What is truly awesome about this allelopathy mechanism is that it is only triggered when the plant receives chemical signals that the competing plants are in the area. And, there is a similar mechanism that has been documented whereby some plants produce a pesticide in reaction to attack by insects. The genetic information for both processes are being “copied and pasted” into commercial grain crops to reduce the need for costly external chemical applications.
In the 1990’s, scientists were able to discover and duplicate what is called the “lotus effect.” Lotus flowers grow in water, and that water is often muddy. In spite of their living conditions, lotus plants remain amazingly clean. The reason for their cleanliness is that the plant is covered by innumerable tiny “bumps.” These bumps are only 0.005-0.01 mm high and are covered with a waxy coating. The surface tension of the water droplets, and the dirt that they contain, allows the water to “ride” across the tops of the bumps and are washed away. This action is similar to water drops shed off of wax paper.
BASF, a German chemical manufacturer, has already made chemical sprays for clothes, furniture, leather goods and masonry which, once applied, render the materials “self-cleaning.” In the future you will see umbrellas that “shake dry.”
Cattle was kept in corrals and fields that were bordered with a thorny bush called Osage Orange. The thorns of the Osage Orange were highly effective, but their use had many drawbacks. In 1868, Michael Kelly invented the first barbed wire fences based upon the natural ability of the Osage Orange. Kelly’s original design would eventually be manufactured into over 2,100 varieties of barbed wire and the Osage Oranges would finally be left alone.
Modern fabric manufacturers are making cloth with built-in air conditioners. The clothing is called “smart clothes.” The design is based on how pine cones open during their drying cycle. The clothing only “opens” its tiny micro-pores for ventilation in those areas covering the body where the temperature reaches a specific limit. Although this technology was first developed for military use, it is now finding its way into outdoor sporting goods stores.
SOME FINAL DESIGN EXAMPLES
The same might be said of the Swimming Arachnids (Spiders). When we think of spiders, don’t we all think of either spiders living on webs or walking on the ground [like Tarantulas]?
The Eurasian diving bell spiders (Argyroneta aquatica), however, live their entire life underwater. These spiders do produce spider webs, but their webs are used to trap large air bubbles. Recent studies show that these bubbles serve as a physical gill.The bubbles actually absorb additional oxygen into the bubble from the surrounding water thus replacing the oxygen consumed by the spider. The spiders also add some air to the bubbles occasionally in order to prevent the bubble from collapsing.
Researchers at the University of Adelaide, Australia, and at Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, have proven that these spiders can consume up to five times the original oxygen content before any additional air is added to the bubble. This evidence proves that these bubbles are acting as true external physical gills and not merely serving as a warehouse of trapped air.
These spiders “store” their bubbles in a hiding place; take a deep breath; and then swim away, allowing them to forage for food or mate; before retrieving their “diving bells” and hooking back up to them.
Here are some interesting, food for thought, questions: Which spider was the first one to figure out the physics of this arrangement? Which spider first said: If I walk into the water, I will not drown; because I will be the first spider in history to have designed the world’s smallest rebreather scuba tank!
In a similar scenario, there are small bugs which also dive into streams and rivers. Their bodies are covered with air that is trapped inside a film coating. As the bugs consume the oxygen, there is a gas exchange with the surrounding water that replenishes the film and keeps the bugs alive.
Human engineers and scientists have been and are copying the chemical, genetic and biological processes and structures that have existed from the time of the creation, placed in nature by a Creator. Any design gives clear and unequivocal evidence of the one who designed it. In the biological world we see not only an infinite number of sophisticated irreducible systems; but, there are countless more that are still waiting to be discovered and analyzed.