Janine Benyus starts her wonderful TED talk by talking about spring.
Except she actually used a picture more like this:
She talks about how spring just happens kind of magically - “all without top-down laws, or policies, or climate change protocols.”
Which is cool, unless spring IS actually coordinated by some smart sky-potato who would probably be offended to have their leadership dismissed so off-handedly
But even if spring IS coordinated by a sky-potato, we have to admit that that sky-potato is pretty amazing.
The point is the sky potato (or we can say ‘nature’) encounters many problems that us humans (who like to think of ourselves as somehow separate from nature) also encounter - like how to keep things warm and safe and dry.
And nature solves them on a crazy low budget, using only natural materials and only willing labor. Willing as far as we know, anyway.
What’s more, nature doesn’t do that human thing of solving one problem by creating three more problems.
So at some point it occurred to some people to start copying some of nature’s design principles.
Like in this bullet train Benyus mentions - the original bullet train was making a sonic boom every time it left a tunnel so the designer (a bird-watcher) saw how king-fishers enter water without making a splash. And the rest is recent history.
Also this shark-skin-inspired anti-bacterial sheeting that people can put in hospitals: instead of using chemicals to repel bacteria, just designing a surface that bacteria can’t easily stick to:
Not to mention this -
Anyway. Cape Town has been pretty chilly lately, so using Benyus’s cool biomimcry search engine, I searched for how nature keeps things warm.
When I first read “at night and in cold weather some ants plug the holes in their ant house to keep heat in” - I just assumed, for some reason, that they use their butts to plug the holes. I don’t know why. I don’t know why I didn’t think “maybe they take sand or something to plug the holes”. Which (I think) is what they actually do.
But even if ants did use their butts, obviously biomimicry is not as simple as using my butt to do the same thing. As my housemates kindly explained - it’s purely principle-based.
So more like if I was designing a very warm jacket, I could use some aspect of the penguin-feather design in designing my insulation material.
Just another reason nature is the best.
this Pecha Kucha talk I once watched three years ago
my friend Ben who once discussed this with me
the Sky-Potato - good job on all the seasons!