How Biomimicry is Inspiring Human Innovation:
…we human beings, who have been trying to make things for only the blink of an evolutionary eye, have a lot to learn from the long processes of natural selection, whether it’s how to make a wing more aerodynamic or a city more resilient or an electronic display more vibrant… one of the most often-cited examples is Velcro, which the Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral patented in 1955 after studying how burs stuck to his clothes…
And the butterflies?
More than a decade ago, an MIT grad named Mark Miles was dabbling in the field of micro-electromechanical and materials processing. As he paged through a science magazine, he was stopped by an article on how butterflies generate color in their wings. The brilliant iridescent blue of the various Morpho species, for example, comes not from pigment, but from “structural color.” Those wings harbor a nanoscale assemblage of shingled plates, whose shape and distance from one another are arranged in a precise pattern that disrupts reflective light wavelengths to produce the brilliant blue. To create that same blue out of pigment would require much more energy—energy better used for flying, feeding and reproducing.
Miles wondered if this capability could be exploited in some way. Where else might you want incredibly vivid color in a thin package?
From Smithsonian Mag.
When we tell stories about creativity, we tend to leave out this phase. We neglect to mention those days when we wanted to quit, when we believed that our problem was impossible. Instead, we skip straight to the breakthrough. We tell the happy ending first.
The danger of this scenario is that the act of feeling frustrated is an essential part of the creative process. Before we can find the answer — before we can even know the question — we must be immersed in disappointment, convinced that a solution is beyond our reach. We need to have wrestled with the problem and lost. Because it’s only after we stop searching that an answer may arrive.
Not sure how much the kid understood this video (via Brainpickings), but it entertained him, reminded me, and gave us the opportunity to talk about the value of mistakes, failure and persistence.
Related reading for teachers, parents and interested parties, from Science Evangelist Dr. Ainissa Ramirez’s TED Talk:
…recast science education from being about memorizing facts, “a trivial pursuit,” to being about problem-solving and thinking for oneself. We need to move away from focusing on tests to showing kids that it’s ok to learn or to take risks. “Children need to explore and to discover. This is how you innovate; you fail your way to your answer. Scientists fail all the time; we just brand it differently. We call it ‘data.’”
The Landfill is a three minute film by documentary filmmaker Gary Hustwit and director Jessica Edwards about how our different kinds of trash can be used as harvestable resources.
The United States produces 390 billion pounds of garbage every year, and finding places to dispose of it is a serious environmental and economic challenge. But what if we could change the way we think about garbage, from something to be disposed of to something to be harvested? THE LANDFILL profiles a small county landfill in Upstate New York, which is using a system of composting, recycling, and methane capture technology to operate sustainably while producing electricity for 400 homes in their area. By focusing on the people and ideas behind this innovative waste-to-energy initiative, THE LANDFILL shows the beauty and potential of the stuff we throw away.
Sustainability FTW! This is exactly the kind of problem solving that kids should see. For more information, visit focusforwardfilms.com/films/11/the-landfill
Built from thousands of plastic bottles, La casa ecológica de botellas was designed and constructed by Alfredo Santa Cruz and his family in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. Lit with outside light, softened by the clear plastic, it is a surprisingly beautiful (and waterproof!) structure. There are more photos and some stats as to what it’s made of at Inhabitots.
The Ecological Bottle House exemplifies the concept of self sustainability and demonstrates how a bit of creative ingenuity can bring about positive change in the way humans interact with the environment. This project addresses four distinct yet interrelated aspects of the human environment relationship: the ecological, social, cultural and tourism.
This is exactly what the kid should see.