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Physics concept that originated from an animal source?

  1. Oct 30, 2012 #1
    I need help finding some animals whose application of physics in the nature have inspired people to use the same physics in inventions/different applications.

    Some animals I've thought of are:
    • Bats (Radar)
    • Dolphins (Sonar)
    • Birds (Airplanes)
    Bats (Radar)

    These animals would be perfect, except there aren't many social and environmental aspects I can talk about.

    I just need some random animals to help me brainstorm.
    If anything jumps into your mind, please post it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 30, 2012 #2


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    I believe I've seen a trailer for a TV programme with that (ghastly) Richard Hammond on UK TV tonight - or fairly soon. The trailer seems to be party along the same lines as your question.
  4. Oct 30, 2012 #3
    The structure of bones in a bird also inspired the Eiffel tower I believe. Their bones are close to hollow.
  5. Oct 30, 2012 #4

    Andy Resnick

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    Butterflies and beetles have inspired a lot of photonic materials.
  6. Oct 30, 2012 #5


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    GetNVan4Candy, one minor correction: Bats do not use radar (from Radio Detection And Ranging). They use sound to navigate and locate their prey and it is called sonar (Sound Navigation And Ranging).

    Here’s a recent discovery of how peacocks use infrasound: The male peacock’s feathers form a parabolic reflector that directs infrasonic thrums below 20 Hz generated by the male for long distances through thick shrubbery. Most probably this adaptation has evolved to summon more potential mates.

    Frogs. When a frog transmits its call while partially submerged it generates three kinds of signals: the acoustic signal in the water, the acoustic signal in the air, and the circularly spreading surface waves emitted by the vibrating throat sac. A second frog that is partially submerged in this same body of water receives these three different signals. First, the acoustic signal in water arrives, and then the airborne acoustic waves, and lastly, the surface water waves arrive. In a two-frog pond with an undisturbed water surface, a semi-submerged frog receiving the surface waves may deduce the relative bearing of the origin of the circular surface waves by comparing wave arrival times according to their azimuth angle. This process is used to acoustically locate the source of a gunshot in air, and for locating the relative bearing of a submarine target, for example. A pond with hundreds of frogs croaking creates a complex pattern with all the surface waves interacting both constructively and destructively. I have photographed this surface wave pattern at night using the reflection from the pond surface of a nearby streetlight.

    Finally, you may look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stridulation for many examples of sound used by nature’s creatures to eat, survive, and reproduce. Many of these animals may have stimulated the innovations in primitive musical instruments.

  7. Oct 31, 2012 #6


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    The advance online publication of Nature Photonics also has an article about interesting optical materials found in fish: T.M. Jordan et al., "Non-polarizing broadband multilayer reflectors in fish", Nature Photonics (2012) doi:10.1038/nphoton.2012.260
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