The world is poorly designed. But copying nature helps.

The world is poorly designed. But copying nature helps.


In 1989, Japan’s Shinkansen Bullet Train
had a problem. It was fast — really fast — like, pushing
170 miles per hour fast. But every time it exited a tunnel — it was
loud. The noise was coming from
a variety of sources, but whenever a train sped into a tunnel, it pushed waves of atmospheric
pressure through the other end. The air exited tunnels with a sonic boom that
could be heard 400 meters away. In dense residential areas, that was a huge
problem. So, an engineering team was brought in to
design a quieter, faster, and more efficient train. And they had one secret weapon: Eiji Nakatsu — the
general manager of the technical development department — was a birdwatcher. Different components of the redesigned bullet
train were based on different birds. Owls inspired the pantograph — that’s
the rig that connects the train to the electric wires above. Nakatsu modeled the redesign after their feathers,
reducing noise by using the same serrations and curvature that allow them to silently
swoop down to catch prey. The Adelie Penguin — whose smooth body allows
it to swim and slide effortlessly — inspired the pantograph’s supporting shaft, redesigned
for lower wind resistance. And perhaps most notable of all was the Kingfisher. The Kingfisher is a bird that dives into water
to catch its prey. The unique shape of its beak allows it to
do that while barely making a splash. Nakatsu took that shape to the design table. The team shot bullets shaped like different
train nose models down a pipe to measure pressure waves, and dropped them in water to measure
the splash size. The quietest nose design was the one modeled
most closely after the Kingfisher’s beak. When the redesign debuted in 1997, it was 10% faster, used 15% less electricity, and stayed under the 70 dB noise limit in residential areas. And it did all that with the wings of an owl,
the belly of a penguin, and the nose of a Kingfisher. There’s a name for design like this. It’s called biomimicry. The people who design our world usually never
take a biology class, believe it or not. So they’re novices in how the world works. That’s Janine Benyus. Back in 1997, she wrote the book that coined
the term “Biomimicry”. It told the story of the innovations in computing,
energy, and health that were inspired by structures in the natural world. Stick like a gecko. Compute like a cell. Even run a business like a redwood forest. Benyus has since worked as a consultant for
various companies, trying to get them to understand how to take design ideas from nature. That might mean studying prairie dog burrows
to build better air ventilation systems, mimicking shark skin to create bacteria-resistant plastic
surfaces for hospitals, or arranging wind turbines in the same drag-reducing pattern
that schools of fish swim in. Designers get inspiration from a lot of different
places, but Benyus thinks many of them could benefit from looking more at the natural world. So there’s a lot of looking at what other people
have done. And what they do is, they look at all the others, and they get ideas. They literally do, I mean, a lot of designers have lots of magazines that they look through, they tear those out and they put them up on inspiration boards. But they’re looking at other human technologies. Her idea was simple: designers should get
in the habit of bringing a biologist to the table, and let them help solve problems by
mimicking nature. And there are three main ways they can do
that. You can mimic its form, or its shape. You might create a paint for a building that,
when it dries, it’s got the same structure as self-cleaning leaves, lotus leaves are
notoriously great, they let rainwater clean the leaf because because they have
these bumps and the rain water balls up on the bumps, and then it pearls away the dirt. So that lotus effect is physical, and you
can create a physical structure on the outside of any product. Imagine that on the outside your car, rainwater
would clean your car. So that’s mimicking form. But there’s also mimicking process, the processes of the natural world. It might even be how you mimic how ants communicate in order to efficiently find sources of food or new places to live.
And those processes, that self-organization, has been mimicked in software, in things like
autonomous cars and how they’re gonna move in flocks through the city by talking to one
another. That’s mimicking nature’s process. And then you jump up to the level of mimicking
whole ecosystems. There’s a thing that’s a buzzword right now,
that’s really hot, called the circular economy, which is essentially industries saying
there should be no such thing as a byproduct in a manufacturing facility that goes to landfill. It should be used by something else, and at
the end of a product’s life, that product should be upcycled into something else. It’s being called the circular economy. Ecosystems do that really, really, really
well. You’ve got a log on the forest floor, and
those materials move up into the body of the fungus that eats it. Those materials move up into a mouse. And that mouse material moves up into a hawk… And if you think about that as what we’d like to do with local materials being upcycled constantly. In our cities, for instance. Those ecosystem lessons are really big for us. And that’s the end goal for biomimetic design
— making products, systems, and cities functionally indistinguishable from the natural world. Life has been around on Earth for 3.8 billion
years — and what designers are starting to realize is that’s a lot of research and
development time. The people who design our world have a lot
to learn from the natural world. All they have to do is take a look. Thank you so much for watching, this is one
of a series of videos that we’re doing in collaboration with 99% Invisible. They are a podcast that does stories all about
design. We loved working with them, you should definitely check them out at 99pi.org or on any podcast app.

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  1. The universe and everything in it was designed…. for a purpose. By a grand intelligent designer… it was not designed to last tho… also for a purpose…

  2. The idea of biomimicry is a really good idea, but do you really need to be a biologist to understand that copying nature will help design. Im pretty sure anybody could think of the idea that an organism will be more fit for the world after so many years of adapting and natural selection. Its just the matter of the lightbulb lighting up in your head.

  3. This is literally how we solve global warming. There is this agricultural system called permaculture (permanent agriculture) that tries to mimic nature entirely. It is basically a circle where nothing goes to waste, and although it requires a lot of time and effort, time and effort is what we need. Global warming didn't happen in just a second, it is the result of us and our ancestors' way of life for thousands of years that caused it. Applying permaculture to farms, moving to sustainable and renewable energies, and using every item we generate instead of throwing it away in the trash is a way to stop climate change.

  4. All you have to do is copy or follow the Creators design, laws, everything, etc… Humans = What if we do this, that, here or over there.

  5. A well-structured video. First, you explain an event which gives a magnificent solution to a problem. Then you start to talk about something related to that and finally, you give your main idea about the topic. Very well done. Definitely liked the video

  6. This video was extremely inspirational! I really love things like this and it helped me change my way of creating and developing projects

  7. Of course we engineers need to mimic the nature, think about it, you are learning from the greatest creator! The one and only true God! Praise the Lord!

  8. Science will always try to mimic Gods creation. Everything made is an innovation. The world wasn’t poorly designed. Man cannot create a world where one can sustain life. If we could, we would be on the Moon already and colonizing it.

  9. My g it’s cause nature knows it’s way around this world better than any man made machine will, so of course animals are always gonna get around faster than us, but it’s cool that we’re learning from them despite the fact that we barely make an effort to save em

  10. This video reminded me of a certain verse of Quran
    الذين يذكرون الله قيٰمًا وقعودًا وعلى جنوبهم ويتفكرون في خلق السمٰوات والأرض ربنا ما خلقت هذا باطلاً سبحانك فقنا عذاب النار.

  11. Ummmm so ur saying they didnt design their train because they understood complex aerodynamics and fluid mechanics, but because they were like “hey, that birds beak is pointy. Hmmmmmmm…. maybe a pointy train would be faster…” no! Anyone who is designing a train shouldn’t have to look at a birds beak to get some hints. They should already know how different shapes are going to interact with air.

  12. Why you need to design a train?? Just keep all the metal and ingredients in a place and it will automatically creat a train in future.

  13. recently I was thinking about how a lot of man made things are replicas of nature and then boom, this on my recommendation

  14. Title: Let's copy from a poorly designed planet
    Close minded people:
    Open Minded People: THIS PLANET IS NOT POORLY DESIGNED!

  15. “The world is poorly designed”…but we need to borrow from that “poor design” to improve ours. Lol. Vox doing their best to avoid intelligent design.

  16. When you say, "designed" …
    … you admit a designer.

    [Dawkins left the group]
    [Dillahunty left the group]
    [Harris left the group]

  17. 5:41 oh shut up! you think industry is similar to nature? natures circulation system is fully enclosed. it is also idiosyncratic. so you assume the titanium dioxide in all the white food products is somehow brilliant, or innovative. maybe take some of your own wisdom. instead of trying to stretch some premise of the paradigm that is nature. how foolish.

  18. as a life sciences graduate this makes me so happy. the natural world is way smarter than we ever will be and it'll only benefit us to learn from it, not destroy it

  19. All credits to the creator of all things…. Of the universe…. A perfect creator. Human have alot to learn….. Its an ocean of knowledge out there… What we know is just like a pinch of water on the ocean by a bird's beak

  20. See what a total lack of purpose and foresight can accomplish! I wonder if we'd get anything at all if we Googled: scientists doubting darwin

  21. I thought the fungus/mould bio mimic I saw many years ago in biology class was amazing. Used micro organisms to design train lines, copying the routes the mould took to design the lines.

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