Idly watching a spider spin a very impressive web, I wondered if arachnids are the greatest engineers and manufacturers in nature. So, as you do these days, I Googled it and was reminded about Biomimetics, the imitation of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems. Examples are the study of how to turn spider webs – stronger by weight than steel, yet highly flexible – into bulletproof vests; the wrinkly skin of a prune as basis for the design of a Smart Morphable Surface (Smorph) that can alter aerodynamic properties at differing wind speeds; and the use of metal oxide microspheres based on the ability of moths to collect as much light as possible in their eyes. Self-repairing bridges may be the outcome of study into the innate ability of ants to connect with each other’s feet at a force of 400 times their body weight to create a raft or floating bridge. A Kingfisher’s streamlined beak led to a nose redesign of bullet trains, and the design of water tanks, hydration packs and fire hoses are likely to be improved because of the study of the flow rate of urination and the length of the urethra, from elephants to cats. Not to forget running shoes inspired by geckoes and robots based on kangaroos…
P.S. To those of you who were offended by my ‘preachy’ December editorial, I do apologise.