August 31, 2012 | David F. Coppedge

Zoo Celebrates Bio-Inspiration

The San Diego Zoo has a new Centre for Bioinspiration, promoting invention based on life’s solutions to practical problems.

Radio station KPBS announced, “San Diego Zoo Will Mimic Nature To Create New Products.”  The zoo will use its practical knowledge of plants and animals to excite corporations to apply the knowledge to invention.  By connecting collaborators with sponsors, they hope to bring useful products to the marketplace.  Examples of animals with biomimetic potential listed in the article include the morpho butterfly, whose wing scales led Qualcomm to improve cell phone displays, and sharks, whose skin led to improved ways for shipbuilders to avoid barnacles.

Reporter Tom Fudge ended with this promising citation: “A study by Point Loma Nazarene University found biomimicry could help the local economy. The study said developing such products had the potential to add 2,100 jobs and $325 million in annual revenues to the San Deigo [sic] region.”  Across the world, the BBC News took notice of this development, headlining, “San Diego Zoo looks to nature to create new gadgets,” noting the design influence of birds, whales and butterflies.  Live Science also reported the news.  “The San Diego Zoo has touted its biomimicry expertise for a few years now,” the article noticed.

Visitors to San Diego Zoo’s Bioinspiration Website can find news and lists of resources for further information.  The Centre’s summer newsletter announced a Bioinspiration Conference for October 2013 in partnership with the Zurich Zoo.  “Imagine medical transportation simplified by looking to the flight of dragonflies, protective body armor inspired by the armadillo shell, or drug delivery improvements inspired by the mosquito,” the announcement reads.  “The natural world represents a tremendous resource for novel and transformative innovation.

In addition, the Centre is attracting high school students to consider careers in biomimetics by offering a course this fall, “Introduction to Biomimcry,” in collaboration with UC San Diego.  It won’t just be a series of lectures, either: “Students will work in pairs on a Design Challenge, where an adaptation from an animal or plant is used as inspiration for solving an engineering challenge.


In other biomimetics news:

Cucumbers:  Did you ever wonder about those coils on cucumber vines that find poles to climb?  Did you ever stretch them?  Scientists at Harvard did.  They wanted to know how the spring-like tendrils coil tighter when stretched, unlike most springs that unwind.  In “How the Cucumber Tendril Coils and Overwinds” in Science Magazine today (31 August 2012: Vol. 337 no. 6098 pp. 1087-1091, DOI: 10.1126/science.1223304), Gerbode et al. explained the counterintuitive behavior of these natural springs “using physical models of prestrained rubber strips, geometric arguments, and mathematical models of elastic filaments.”  The outcome of their work “suggests designs for biomimetic twistless springs with tunable mechanical responses.”  Their paper threw a cucumber slice to Darwin who had called the tendrils “soft springs” – but that had nothing to do with evolution.

Their only mention of evolution itself was not helpful to Darwin: “Collectively, our observations raise questions at an evolutionary level about the ubiquity of this mechanism in other tendril-bearing species and at a mechanical level about the functional principles of these soft twistless springs,” they said in the conclusion.  A Harvard press release summarized the research in lay language.  Trying to remain evolutionary about this design, the article claimed, “Nature has solved all kinds of energetic and mechanical problems, doing it very slowly and really getting it right.”  Noting the efficiency of the design, the article ended with a rhetorical question, “The real question remains this: How difficult is it to evolve such tendril-like solutions?

Rats:  Engineers at CORDIS are saying “Eureka!” instead of “Rats!” as they work on rat-inspired whiskered robots, reported PhysOrg.  The summary provides glimpses of hope for homemakers, doctors and firefighters: “Inspired by the twitching whiskers of common rats and Etruscan shrews, European researchers have developed rodent-like robots and an innovative tactile sensor system that could be used to help find people in burning buildings, make vacuum cleaners more efficient and eventually improve keyhole surgery.”  Remember–these are the critters you want to trap or poison.

Bugs:  A short video on Live Science praises “The Master Designer, Nature Herself.”  Shrilk, a cheap new material inspired by bug parts and discarded shrimp shells, is leading to biodegradable sutures, plastics, and containers.

Lastly, Science Daily announced “Evidence That New Biomimetic Controlled-Release Capsules May Help in Gum Disease.”

Isn’t this great?  This is more evidence that biomimetics is rolling over Darwin.  As expected, the Darwinists are trying to capitalize on this hot new trend with empty speculations, like “Biology has had a much longer time – 3.8 billion years – to address problems, and a lot of the problems are similar to those we face” (BBC News), but in so doing, they are only exhibiting their ignorance of natural selection (an aimless process with no goal or purpose in mind), and the uselessness of their theory.  Most biomimetics articles don’t even mention evolution, and are better off with the omission.  Who needs a distracting story, when the rush is on to imitate the designs everyone calls masterful?  Darwinism may well be simply drowned out and forgotten in the bioinspiration stampede.

Even worse is calling “Mother Nature” the Master Designer.  The apostle Paul rightly instructed us to give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7), and the only Master Designer around able to create master designs is the all-wise Logos who created all things (John 1:1-3) – including ourselves, we who are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and “skillfully wrought” in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16).  Give honor to whom honor is due: be humble, be thankful, and be obedient.


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  • rockyway says:

    1. ‘The San Diego Zoo has a new Centre for Bioinspiration, promoting invention based on life’s solutions to practical problems.
    – I’d prefer to say, “promoting invention based on the Creator’s solutions to practical problems.”

    2. “San Diego Zoo Will Mimic Nature To Create New Products.”
    – The field of biomimetics isn’t about mimicking ‘nature’ but imitating or copying the inventive bio-solutions of the Creator. It’s not about mimicking nature but mimicking creation.
    (There is no such thing as nature. In my opinion the older usage, where ‘nature’ referred to the essential character of an organism was far better. i.e. each organism has a nature, but there is no such overall entity as Nature.)

    3. “The natural world represents a tremendous resource for novel and transformative innovation.”
    – The resources held within creation should be seen as a gift of love and grace from God. To mimic the design within biological organisms without giving their Creator credit is a form of theft.

    4. “Biology has had a much longer time — 3.8 billion years — to address problems, and a lot of the problems are similar to those we face”
    – This claim ignores the fact that if all were matter in motion, there would be no such thing as a problem. i.e. a ‘problem’ is a judgment made by an intelligent and personal agent. (This claim also presumes the idea of freedom and possibility.)

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