Mound-building macro termites construct vertical mounds out of soil, saliva, and dung, with some mounds in Africa measuring up to several meters high. While mound structure can vary among termite species, the mounds generally resemble chimneys, with some mounds having large vents while others lack large openings but have porous walls. Inside these mounds, worker termites can dig a complex array of tunnels of various sizes. The termites themselves live in nests below ground in colonies that can contain up to a million individuals. The most recent published research on termite mounds suggests that they function much like mammalian lungs and act as accessory organs for gas exchange in the underground nests. It was previously thought that termite mounds functioned to continuously maintain the nest’s internal temperature within a narrow range in the face of extreme outside temperature fluctuations, but research on the mound-building termite Macrotermes michaelseni is expanding our understanding of mound function. During the day, changes in internal nest temperature are less extreme than changes in outside temperature, but over the course of a year, nest temperature does vary and closely follows the temperature of the surrounding soil. The soil has a large thermal capacity, meaning it can absorb or lose large Continue reading
“[W]e had another challenge that we pursued to the test run phase. Half of the entire Sanyo Shinkansen Line (from Osaka to Hakata) is made up of tunnel sections. When a train rushes into a narrow tunnel at high speed, this generates atmospheric pressure waves that gradually grow into waves like tidal waves. These reach the tunnel exit at the speed of sound, generating low-frequency waves that produce a large boom and aerodynamic vibration so intense that residents 400 meters away have registered complaints. For this reason, we gave up doing test runs at over 350 km/h.”Then, one of our young engineers told me that when the train rushes into a tunnel, he felt as if the train had shrunk. This must be due to a sudden change in air resistance, I thought. The question the occurred to me – is there some living thing that manages sudden changes in air resistance as a part of daily life?“Yes, there is, the kingfisher. To catch its prey, a kingfisher dives from the air, which has low resistance, into high-resistance water, and moreover does this without splashing. I wondered if this is possible because of the keen edge and streamlined shape of its beak.”So we conducted tests to measure pressure waves arising from shooting bullets of various shapes into a pipe and a thorough series of simulation tests of running the trains in tunnels, using a space research super-computer system. Data analysis showed that the ideal shape for this Shinkansen is almost identical to a kingfisher’s beak.”I was once again experiencing what it is to learn from Nature, seeing first hand that a solution obtained through large-scale tests and analysis by a state-of-the-art super-computer turned out to be very similar to a shape developed by a living creature in the natural world. The nose of our new 500-Series Shinkansens has a streamline shape that is 15m in length and almost round in cross section.”This shape has enabled the new 500-series to reduce air pressure by 30% and electricity use by 15%, even though speeds have increased by 10% over the former series. Another benefit has been confirmed through a favorable reputation among customers that these trains give a comfortable ride. This is due to the fact that changes in pressure when the trains enter tunnels are smaller.” (Japan for Sustainability 2005)
While the redcoats and the rebels squared off, butterfly catchers gathered their own army- of specimens. Among those were two new species, the white admiral and the red-spotted purple. The white admiral is a black butterfly with a white stripe, although at least their true to their name in once scene, just like an admiral in a combat zone, their white stripes break up their butterfly outline, making it hard for procedures to spot. The Red-spotted purple, however, wants to be seen, it’s bright flamboyant colors (blue with orange spots) copied another, more poisonous species, fooling other to think that it, too is poisonous. At first, the two species seemed pretty straight forward, two different species, two different wing patterns, and two different survival strategies. But something funky happens where the two butterfly’s habitats meet, there you’ll see butterflies with orange spots and white stripes, sure enough, these were too odd offspring of the white admiral and red-spotted purple. But these butterflies were more simmalar underneath their spots and stripes, both atomicly and geneticly. Strangely enough, these species mated just as readily as they did with their own kind. These similarities convinced scientists to make the two species one.
Biomimicry is innovation inspired my nature, it’s learning from and then using nature’s ideas. If you take Velcro, Velcro comes from an inventor who took a hike with his dog, harrier mistral, when he got back home he noticed there were seeds that were stuck to his dog’s fur. When he looked at the birr under a microscope he realized that there were tiny little hooks, and he invented this two-sided Velcro, one with loops and on with hooks.
Radar was invented by looking at how organisms like bats put out a sound and are able to almost see by reading those echoes. If you go to the airport and you go through one of those scanners, hats based on a bat called the bazillion free-tailed bat. It’s so precise that it allows the acoustic cameras that it can see through clothing. I see biomimicry as a way we can leap frog, towards a much more sustainable world, biomimicry lets you look into the natural world where may already have been solved.
Can beetles help prevent droughts?
In the Namib desert, there is very little ground water, however, there is some fog. There is a tiny little black beetle that climbs up to a sand dune, stands on its head, lifts it’s wing scales into the fog. On these “wing scales,” there are little bumps, the tips of the bumps are like magnets for water while the sides of the bumps are waxy. When the fog comes in, the water condenses around the tips, slides down the sides, and runs into the critters mouth. This is actually being copied my engineers are designing fog-catching nets that are 10 times better than the fog-catching nets we have now. In fact, there’s a company that’s making this inside of water bottles, self-filling water bottles. Water is the new oil, it’s what nations will be fighting over. To be able to haul water out of the atmosphere, that’s something we need. Continue reading
The Moon seems to follow you because it’s so far away. That idea may sound wrong. After all, how could something far away seem to follow along? To understand, start with objects that are much closer.When you are riding in a car, close things seem to move by rapidly as you pass them. A tree or house by the road starts out ahead of you. It comes up fast and, in a few moments, it’s far behind you.Objects that are far away do not seem to move very fast. If you can see a faraway building or a mountain from a moving car, notice how long it takes for that object to pass by. Out West, you can sometimes ride toward mountains that never seem to get any closer.The Moon is more than 200,000 miles away. It is so far away that the motion of your car doesn’t change its position enough for you to notice. So the Moon just seems to follow you wherever you go.