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1115837.  Sun Feb 01, 2015 10:19 am Reply with quote

"Mimicry" is a term used in evolutionary biology to describe the similarity between two species that favours one or both. From the same root (Ancient Greek: μῖμος (mimos), "imitator, actor") comes the term "pantomime" - but this is not the only context in which humans engage in mimicry.

In the last few decades a new branch of science has in fact risen to popularity: biomimicry. That is, the imitation of models and structures that occur in Nature in order to produce "smarter" technological devices. After all, Nature had millions of years to master its tricks and Darwinian selection has done the rest - there's so much we can learn!

A few examples include gecko-inspired tape [1], plant-like arrangement of solar cells [2] and - going back in time - Leonardo Da Vinci's studies of bats' wings to design a flying machine [3].

Admittedly, Leonardo's attempt wasn't extremely successful (a legend says that one of his apprentices broke a leg during the experiments...[4]) but scientists at Harvard University were not discouraged and a couple of years started looking into the possibility of mimicking the flight of bees [5].

The aim of their "Robobee Project" is to produce a bee-like robot that can be used for various purposes ranging from pollination to military espionage.

Their latest model weights around 80g and has an impressive 120Hz wingbeat frequency for a total wingspan of 3cm.

One may wonder what's the small copper wire hanging from the robobee for (see image)...well, as any electronical device, the robobee needs a power supply and the wire is connecting it to a source of electricity! However, the researchers are looking into less invasive alternative...

"The Secret of the Fibonacci Sequence in Trees". 2011 Winning Essays. American Museum of Natural History. 1 May 2014.
[4] Liana Bortolon, Leonardo, Paul Hamlyn, (1967)


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