How Engineering Ripped Off Nature


Let’s go back to the beginning – the very beginning. Life on Earth first appeared around four billion years ago, when the right amino acids formed in liquid water for the first time ever in the universe – as far as humans know.

This existed as single cellular life until around 500 million years ago when suddenly, there was an explosion of diversity as multi-celled organisms proliferated and spread throughout the oceans.

Since, then, life has come up with more ingenious ways to solve problems than the world’s smartest innovators could ever dream of. What better source of inspiration to blatantly plagiarize and take credit for its invention than nature itself?

The Human Body

The human body is one of the crowning pinnacles of evolution, both anatomically and neurologically, and it inspires inventions both mechanical and mathematical in nature.

Take even something as mundane as a gastrointestinal tract; where some see a fairly disgusting procedure in the act of swallowing food, others see beautiful ingenuity in the process of peristalsis – the mechanical principle that allows matter to be transported throughout the digestive system without the use of gravity, enabling it to be separated to mitigate the cross-contamination of fluid.

IMportance of Nature

Modern peristaltic pumps copied this biomechanical action and are a core feature of many industries. In fact, today’s industrial-grade peristaltic pumps directly translated this idea and are used in everything from kidney dialysis to water purification systems, incorporating a wide range of uses that modern-day humans need in society.

Then, of course, there is the human brain – the direct inspiration for Alan Turing’s Enigma code-breaking machine, which heralded the computer revolution.

Where computers work in binary code, the human brain similarly translates, processes, and stores vast quantities of digital information via electrical signals and pathways in a matrix of neurons and synapses.

To date, though, no computer has ever come close to the 100 trillion or so connections in a single human mind. Now, that’s computing power!

The Animal Kingdom

Human eyes are good, but squid eyes are better, at night vision anyway. Cephalopods can detect photons in nature at far longer wavelengths than any vertebrate and even adjust their receptors to process infrared.

This effectively gives them the ability to see in the dark, just like an infrared thermal imaging camera. In the opposite direction, peregrine falcons can process light at very short wavelengths, allowing them to see in the ultraviolet (UV).

Plants And The Sun

When it comes to the cultivation of energy, however, no animal is as efficient as plants. Plants, in turn, get their power directly from the sun in the form of photosynthesis via the use of chloroplasts – the cells that give leaves their green hue.

All organic energy is ultimately solar in this regard, as herbivores get their energy directly from the solar energy stored in plants and carnivores from herbivores. Consider this the next time you go out to look for solar lights to decorate your garden!

Technically, however, one could argue that the entire planet is basically nuclear-powered because the energy-making process that powers the sun in the first place is nuclear fusion, where atoms literally fuse together, releasing both thermal and light energy.

Currently, all nuclear power plants work by way of nuclear fission – fusion’s rather pathetic and much less hygienic cousin – but that is changing, and if that holy grail can be discovered, then you can effectively kiss fossil fuels and global warming goodbye.

You’ll hopefully be able to thank the celestial inspiration for this when it happens, as it lovingly caresses you as you bask under the warmth of the summer sun.

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