Everybody Looking to Nature for Solutions

When I say I’m interested biology because I believe that looking to nature for fresh ideas in software and other technology design, most people look at me like I’m crazy – or even tell me bluntly that I am. But I’m not easily offended nor easily convinced that it’s me and not them that are crazy.

Browsing the media these days, I see more and more reports and news about companies and research institutes that are turning up with interesting results from exactly this mixture. This is especially true for the software industry, where much of today’s cutting edge seems to be biology inspired. Following are just a few examples of this wave of innovation and ideas.
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Shark Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition

At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, 28 of 33 Olympic Gold Medals were earned in Speedo Fastskin, a swimsuit overall that reduces water’s drag on the swimmer by 3%. The overalls lowered swimming times of professional swimmers by some 7.5%. The suit’s fluid dynamics are based on sharks’ skin, a design that has turned many fish and the occasional Australian surfer into tasty dinner for the shark family (class actually).

The Fastskin is an excellent example of successful biomimicry (see glossary), where someone has studied a good “design” in nature and mimicked it to create something useful, in this case a fabric with desirable qualities. Biomimicry is more common than people might think and affects things we use everyday.
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