Archive for June, 2014
This is one out of 50 illustrations I have proposed for a new version of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat
Copying Nature as da Vinci did was to watch birds fly. It inspired him to sketch out a flying machine. It was beautiful as far a drawing is judged, but impossible to get it up in the air. Biomimetics or imitating nature often ends up as impractical.
It took years to discover why da Vinci failed. From mimicking birds flying he did not get the function of wings. The bird’s wing performs two separate tasks, both of which are essential. By its shape, it provides lift when air passes over it. And by its movements it provides power. The pedal power as da Vinci seemed to suggest was impossible. The crucial step to making aircraft was to separate two functions, leaving the wing to do the lifting but transferring the power function to an engine and propeller, something no bird ever possessed. So the lesson is clear: You begin by imitating nature, as in the case of birds but get beyond the seemingly simple use of wings. In the latter case the principle is integrated in terms of engine and propeller.
What does being civilized means? Is it not man leave off being natural and learn to conduct himself in such a manner he is agreeable to others in public?
The work of the German engineering Claus Mattheck Design in Nature: Learning from Trees is a classic on biomimetics. Mattheck’s lifelong love affair with trees has led to many important innovations in engineering design.
One of these considers the junction where the branch of a tree meets the trunk. Mattheck said the curvature around this junction was very cleverly designed to minimize the concentration of stress that occurs when engineers try to design the same shape. He developed a computer program to simulate tree growth, and the result was a fantastic reduction in stress concentration, allowing for more slender components. One may not be able to assume if trees had this in mind but it works in nature. Whereas when we need to minimize stress for example in the design of a car we need to think not like a tree but in terms of economy and practicality in human terms which are altogether different. We need to consider fuel efficiency, material cost,less CO2 emissions calculated obsolescence and so on. A tree is natural and can last for hundred years or so but if a car can run on for 100 years one may be sure consumer market would soon be dead and gone.
(ack: (The Conversation-‘Simply Copying Nature…/David Taylor of 10 June, 2014)