Most of us know that nature has already come up with an endless supply of brilliant design solutions, just waiting to be integrated into your designs. The problem is that you have to be exposed to nature in the first place in order to learn about them. The inventor of Velcro famously got the idea for it after walking his dog through a field full of burrs. This biomechanical researcher discovered that cat's tongues can actually shred meat. Geckel adhesive was invented by studying the feet of geckos and mussels.
When was the last time you studied mussels, examined a dead snow leopard's tongue or even walked through a field? Wouldn't it be great if you had a catalog of nature-based design solutions, and could even search it with abstract terms like "how to protect from heat," "how to move" or "how to prevent structural failure?"
Well, that's exactly what the Biomimicry Institute has put together--and made freely available online. AskNature.org, a searchable database of natural solutions so broad that it contains lots of things you've never heard of, allows you to "explore biological intelligence organized by design and engineering functions."
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Need to design a sealed cylinder? Check out how a butterfly's proboscis works. Designing a support truss? Look at how the branches of Russian thistles provide support. Designing a non-slip grip for ice? Check out how polar bear paws work. Want to create a more efficient soil aeration tool for gardening or farming? Learn how the short-beaked echidna (a kind of anteater) can actually breathe underground by creating air pockets in the soil.
There's a video below on how the site works, but it's really pretty self-explanatory. Try it out by browsing the collection or entering specific search queries here.