Mimetics

It was sunny yesterday and I took time to photograph the Hollyhocks which grow just outside the barn. As I reviewed these images, the parallel between the reticulated pattern of venation of the plant and that created by urban sprawl and the development of housing subdivisions struck me. This convergence, between nature and a human construct, is nothing new … the parallels are much studied and comprise the field of Biomimetics. The terms mimetics and mimesis describe art, or other human constructions, as they reflect what is good, useful, efficient, and beautiful in the physical world. [Examples of biomimicry include Velcro and burs, and Kevlar and spider silk.]

It is not my habit to quote from Wikipedia (I prefer original sources and sometimes view the internet as the academic analogue of fast food) but will make an exception in the best interest of efficiency. The following is taken, with some modification, from Wikipedia: Through the course of 3.8 billion years, nature has gone through a process of trial and error to refine living organisms, processes, and materials. [The author means to point out that nature is subject to the laws and outcomes of the process of Natural Selection.] The emerging field of biomimetics has given rise to new technologies created from biologically inspired engineering on a number of scales. Biomimetics is not a new idea. Humans have always looked to nature for answers to both complex and simple problems. Nature has solved many of today’s engineering problems such as hydrophobicity, wind resistance, self-assembly, and solar energy.

Nature has had it right from the beginning … if we would simply stop to listen, we’d be a whole lot better off.

[The street view on the right, of south-west Florida, was captured from Google Maps. Views of this sort were the subject of a Boston Globe piece at Boston.com.]

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