Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature

Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature

Janine M. Benyus

Language: English

Pages: 308

ISBN: 0060533226

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature

Janine M. Benyus

Language: English

Pages: 308

ISBN: 0060533226

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This profound and accessible book details how science is studying nature’s best ideas to solve our toughest 21st-century problems.

If chaos theory transformed our view of the universe, biomimicry is transforming our life on Earth. Biomimicry is innovation inspired by nature – taking advantage of evolution’s 3.8 billion years of R&D since the first bacteria. Biomimics study nature’s best ideas: photosynthesis, brain power, and shells – and adapt them for human use. They are revolutionising how we invent, compute, heal ourselves, harness energy, repair the environment, and feed the world.

Science writer and lecturer Janine Benyus names and explains this phenomenon. She takes us into the lab and out in the field with cutting-edge researchers as they stir vats of proteins to unleash their computing power; analyse how electrons zipping around a leaf cell convert sunlight into fuel in trillionths of a second; discover miracle drugs by watching what chimps eat when they’re sick; study the hardy prairie as a model for low-maintenance agriculture; and more.

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pattern, or a waterfall—are not “run” by anyone in particular, but are instead controlled by countless individual interactions that occur inside the system. Every day, for instance, customers in hundreds of countries make decisions to buy or not to buy, and those decisions in turn affect the price of beans and stocks. In the same way, countless interactions in a natural system—eating or being eaten, for instance—weave together to define the community. Just as the invisible hand of the marketplace

occurred without two charges, a plus and a minus, being banished to opposite ends of a membrane, sent packing by the power of ordinary, garden-variety sunlight. Anytime you have a positive and negative charge separated like that, you essentially have a battery, a battery powered by the sun. Moore takes another deep breath. “We began to wonder if we could make a solar battery by hooking a sun-sensitive pigment to a string of donor and acceptor molecules. We wanted two things. First, we wanted to

it. Vernonia amygdalina is called “bitter leaf” by the Tongwe natives, who use it when they are afflicted with similar malaise, loss of appetite, and constipation. The pith contains a perfect dose of the juice, about the same amount as in a typical dose used by humans. Further analysis revealed why the chimps focus only on the pith—elsewhere in the plant, in the leaves and bark, for instance, the parasite-slaying toxins are in concentrations high enough to kill lab mice. Encouraged by the

Fischbach, chairman of the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, agrees that the neuron is “a sophisticated computer.” In a September 1992 article in Scientific American he writes: “To set the intensity (action potential frequency) of its output, each neuron must continually integrate up to 1,000 synaptic inputs, which do not add up in a simple linear manner…. The enzymes make a decision about whether the cells are going to fire and how they will fire…. [B]y fine-tuning their

visible. Amplification schemes like these are used in biosensors all the time. In at-home pregnancy or cholesterol tests, for instance, receptors are immobilized on the surface of the tester, and when their open arms “catch” telltale molecules in your blood or urine, the receptors change shape. This shape change cues an enzyme to do its thing, usually a chemical reaction. Suddenly, as you stare at it, the stick turns blue. In the tactilizing processor, the inputs would be light signals, and the

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