Get smart curated videos delivered to your inbox every week.      
The Kid Should See This

How a kingfisher, an owl, & a penguin helped redesign Japan’s Shinkansen

How is Japan’s Shinkansen, a long-nosed bullet train that travels up to 240–320 km/h (150–200 mph), like a kingfisher? Or an owl? Or an Adélie penguin? In this video from Vox and 99% Invisible, we see how these three birds influenced the 1989 redesign of this high speed train with the help of birdwatching and biomimicry.

Earlier models were rounder and louder, often suffering from the phenomenon of “tunnel boom,” where deafening compressed air would rush out of a tunnel after a train rushed in. But a moment of inspiration from engineer and birdwatcher Eiji Nakatsu led the system to be redesigned based on the aerodynamics of three species of birds.

Nakatsu’s case is a fascinating example of biomimicry, the design movement pioneered by biologist and writer Janine Benyus. It’s the idea that big challenges in design, engineering, and sustainability have often been solved before through 3.8 billion years of evolution on earth. We just have to go out and find them.

The video is chock full of excellent ways that we can learn from prairie dog burrows, shark skin, lotus leaves, ecosystems, and more. Related reading: Circular economies.

We love biomimicry and the solutions that it can yield. Watch these videos next: Think Like a Tree – Problem solving with nature’s best ideas, mimicking shark skin to combat superbugs, How Ingenious Animals Have Engineered Air Conditioning, and can Namib Desert beetles help us solve our drought problems?

🌈 Related videos

Think Like a Tree – Problem solving with nature’s best ideas

Rion Nakaya

Charles and Ray Eames’ Powers of Ten (1977)

Rion Nakaya

Design Ah! (デザインあ) introduces kids to design concepts

Rion Nakaya

It’s different from what you expected – Design Ah! (デザインあ)

Rion Nakaya

The Sticky Feet of Ants & Cockroaches – Cambridge Ideas

Rion Nakaya

The Solar Do-Nothing Machine by Charles and Ray Eames

Rion Nakaya

An animated ode to curiosity, exploration, discovery, & creativity

Rion Nakaya

What does the wheelchair symbol actually mean?

Rion Nakaya

The Ingenious Design of the Aluminum Beverage Can

Rion Nakaya

Get 7 smart videos delivered every week.

 

Subscribe