In the past months, I have come across no less than two articles on Biomimicry entitled Nature’s Design Workshop: MSNBC and more recently BusinessWeek (make sure you watch the slideshow).

Researcher Promode Bandyopadhyay has a very interesting quote:

I am against mimicry. I am against making a mechanical zoo. There is no science in that. It is imperative to understand the science first.

Nature is great at finding a solution to a very particular problem within a precise set of environmental constraints. The researcher’s role is to understand how nature’s solution works and to generalize it to other applications. Combine nature’s adeptness at finding efficient, sustainable solutions with our ability for abstract thinking and we get some of the very best engineering around.

For those not familiar with the term, the Biomimicry Institute gives the following definition:

Biomimicry (from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate) is a new science that studies nature’s best ideas and then imitates these designs and processes to solve human problems.

Their website has a good introduction to the concept, and a bunch of interesting case studies.