6 remarkable inventions that already exist in nature

From the wheel to the rocket, humans have invented a marvellous lot.

But it might surprise you to learn that many of our inventions are not original or unique. Many of them already exist in nature. And sometimes, these natural versions are even more sophisticated than the human-made ones.

Here some examples that show how incredibly advanced nature is:

Velcro -- inspired by the burdock plant

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Swiss engineer George de Mestral observed the burrs from the burdock plant that latched on to his pants (and his dog) after a hunting trip. He found that the seeds' tiny hooks allowed them to stick to things with loops, like the cotton fibres of pants. It took Mestral over a decade of experimentation to replicate it perfectly into what he called the 'zipperless-zipper' and is today known as Velcro.

Source: Today I Found Out

SONAR -- dolphins do it too

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The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 prompted researchers to try and develop technology to detect objects in water. In 1915, French physicist Paul Langevin invented a system designed to utilise sound waves and their echoes to locate objects underwater; today we know it as SONAR. While this technology is fairly new for humans, some animals have always used echolocation to navigate, hunt, and forage. Bats and dolphins, for example, emit sounds and listen to the echoes to detect and locate objects around them.

Suction cups

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Suction cups are magical tools that can be used to attach or tightly grip flat surfaces. Using principles of vacuum and pressure, these objects can be used to stick objects to walls or even scale tall buildings. The first human patents for an version of suction cups were filed during the 1860s. However, octopus suckers are a much more advanced version of the human-made kind, with tiny concentric grooves on the edges of every sucker allowing the animal to grasp uneven surfaces even underwater.

Source: Scientific American

Shinkansen bullet train -- you can thank the Kingfisher

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Bullet trains were initially designed to mimic bullets, and while initial versions of them were met with success, they had one problem: they'd emit a loud thunderous noise when exiting tunnels. But Eji Nakatsu, one of the engineers at the Japanese rail company that made the bullet trains who was also an avid bird-watcher, observed that he could apply the structure of the Kingfisher's beak to the bullet trains, which not only solved the noise problem, but also increased energy efficiency and permitted faster speeds.

Sources: San Diego Zoo, EarthSky, Bloomberg


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Scotch tape was invented by Richard Gurley Drew in 1922. As a lab technician at 3M, he delivered samples of sandpaper to local automotive shops, where he often overheard workers complaining about the residue from the tape they used while painting the cars. For two years, Drew experimented with various adhesives, trying to come up with one that wouldn't leave any residue once it was peeled off. Eventually, this resulted in Scotch Tape.

Geckos stick to surfaces without adhesives thanks to millions of microscopic hairs on the bottom of their toes. By simply changing the direction of the hairs, geckos can break the grip -- no sticky residues here.

Sources: Gizmodo, Bloomberg

Brighter lightbulbs

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The outer coating of LED bulbs reflects some of the light inwards, reducing its efficiency and brightness. Struggling to overcome this problem, an international team of researchers looked to the firefly lantern. They found that the lanterns had an exoskeleton which was jagged with protruding scales and a tilted slope. This prevented reflection and let most of the light out. Nicolas André at the University of Sherbrooke in Canada used lasers to create a similar texture on LEDs and saw that they shone with 1.5 times more intensity.

'The most important aspect of this work is that it shows how much we can learn by carefully observing nature,' Annick Bay, a PhD student at the University of Namur who took part in the study, told The Optical Society.

Source: The Optical Society

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