March 23, 2011
What is Biomimicry?
Biomimicry is copying nature's design and processes to use for human purposes. It sounds complicated, but it really isn't. How did the Wright brothers come up with the idea of building an airplane? They (and others before them) spent a lot of time studying birds in flight. They noticed that birds soared into the wind and that the air flowing over the curved surface of their wings lifted them higher into the air. They also watched the birds change the shape of their wings to turn and maneuver.
Biomimicry is a way of learning from nature. Engineers use the features and qualities that they observe in nature to develop new products or better ways to do things. It wasn't just the Wright brothers who used biomimicry either. Check out these other well-known copycat inventions:
- Light stick - Firefly
- Sonar - Bat
- Suction cups - Octopus
- Swim fins and paddles - Duck
- Snowshoes - Snowshoe hare, ptarmigan
- Velcro™ - Burdock seed
- Robots - Ant and other insects
Into the Future
New ideas for inventions based on nature are being developed all the time. The fastest train in the world travels more than 200 miles per hour, but it is very noisy when it comes out of a tunnel. Scientists looked at nature to find something that travels quickly and smoothly between two different types of environments. They found that the kingfisher-a bird with a very long, pointed beak-dives into the water with very little splash. They redesigned the front of the train after the beak of the kingfisher, making it quieter and more energy efficient.
Have you ever been on a whale watch and seen a humpback whale dive into the water? Despite their size, humpback whales produce nets of bubbles only five feet across as they dive deep into the ocean by using their flippers to swim in tiny circles. Engineers are applying the lessons they learned from humpback whales to design more efficient wind turbines.
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It's a Stick Up!
The seeds of the burdock plant stick to anything hairy or fuzzy. They attach themselves to passing animals and eventually fall off and begin to grow in a different location. Scientists used this process to develop Velcro™ as a way to attach things quickly. Get some friends together to test why Velcro™ is such a great invention. Gather several similar items of clothing with the following different types of closures: buttons, zipper, snaps and Velcro™. Have each person choose an article of clothing and race to put it on and fasten it completely. Have somebody else keep track of the time it takes for each person to finish fastening their clothing. How much faster was the person who chose the item with Velcro™?
Seeing Nature in a Different Way
See whether you can think of some new ideas based on nature with this experiment. While outside, have a friend collect some natural objects without letting you see what they are. Put on a blindfold, and have your friend gently place the objects in your hands, one at a time. Describe each object's features: soft, sticky, prickly, warm, etc. Use your senses (except sight and taste) to examine each object closely. Can you think of any ways that you could use the objects? Switch roles with your friend, and have them examine some different objects while blindfolded.
Read Conservationist for Kids for more information and activities!
Youth Conservation Program (Peconic River Sportsman's Club in Manorville)
Saturday, April 9 and Sunday April 10
This two-day program teaches young students between the ages of 12 to 15 the important aspects of Sportsmen Education. Call 631-444-0255 for further information and to register.
Is It Spring?
Friday, March 25 at 7:00 PM
Family Fun: Maple Sugar Open House
Saturday, March 26 and April 2 from 1:30 to 3:30 PM
Come at any time to visit the round-robin education stations. Organized groups are welcome but are asked to call 518-475-0291 to register.
Wild, Wacky Woodcock Watch
Thursday, March 24 from 6:30 to 7:30 PM
Call 518-456-0655 to register. Cost: $3.00/person, $5.00/family, children under 5 free.
Advance registration is required. Call 716-683-5959.
Thursday, March 24 and 31 at 4:30 PM
For children in grades K-5. No registration required.
Saturday, March 26 at 10:00 AM
Garlic Mustard Challenge Kickoff
Saturday, April 2 at 11:00 AM
Gather your scout troop, science club or other organization, and compete with other groups to see who can remove the most garlic mustard from The Woods.