Background

Mother Nature is a pretty wise old gal. Among other things, she is a superior problem solver. Think about it. She has resolved countless problems for plants and animals (including humans). Many plants "know" how to turn toward a light source, for instance. And she helped bats to navigate without eyes, snakes to move without legs, and giraffes to eat leaves off tall trees.

One specific type of analogy is known as "bionics." Whereas general analogies reflect similarities anywhere in life, the Bionic Ideas exercise looks to Mother Nature for similarities. Why invent the wheel if Mother Nature has already done it?

Research labs have resolved a variety of electronic, thermal, hydraulic, mechanical, and chemical problems using Bionic Ideas. For example, the eye of a beetle was used as an analogy to develop an aircraft ground-speed altitude indicator. Alexander Graham Bell used characteristics of the human ear to invent the telephone, and rattlesnake temperature-sensing organs helped suggest the guidance system for the Sidewinder heat-seeking missile.

One famous analogy involved a product that is analogous to the common cocklebur. A hunter walking through a field noticed how cockleburs caught on his trousers using a hook and loop mechanism. This closure system suggested the concept of Velcro®. An entire industry developed from this simple observation.

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