Wild Wisdom: What Technology Learns from the Natural World

May 10, 2024  |  Adithya Bharath

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As a high school student interested in exploring the connection between technology and nature, I was curious to find out how the natural world inspires modern technological advances. My research journey started with some basic Google searches and reading through articles on biomimicry. I also watched several documentaries and TED Talks that explained how animals and plants have influenced technological designs. Here is a detailed article on how space suits can benefit from biomimetics.

Nature’s inspiration for innovation in Spacesuits and Cyber Defense

Not only is nature beautiful to look at, but it is also providing us with fantastic ideas for solving complex technological problems. The concept of biomimicry, which refers to drawing inspiration from natural systems to address human challenges, is now trending heavily in fields such as cybersecurity and space exploration. Biomimicry involves the creation and development of materials, structures, and systems that are inspired by biological entities and processes. For thousands of years, humans have turned to the natural world as a source of inspiration for innovations across various domains, including transportation and entertainment. This approach has led to significant advancements, such as the design of aircraft inspired by the aerodynamics of bird wings and the development of anti-glare screens modeled after the intricate nanostructures found in moth eyes. By observing and emulating the unique characteristics of wildlife, we have continuously found ways to enhance our technological capabilities and improve the quality of our daily lives. This field not only highlights the ingenuity inherent in nature but also underscores the potential for sustainable and efficient design solutions drawn from the biological world

Nature’s Influence on Cybersecurity

  • Data Masking Inspired by Moths

The humble moth, with its ability to blend into its surroundings, provides a perfect metaphor for data masking in cybersecurity. This technique involves hiding real data among fake data, thereby protecting sensitive information from prying eyes.

  • Steganography and the Chameleon

Similarly, the chameleon's ability to change its color to match its environment mirrors the practice of steganography in cybersecurity. This method involves hiding information within non-secret data, much like concealing a secret message within an ordinary-looking image or audio file. Digital watermarking in multimedia is a practical application of this technique, helping to secure copyrights by embedding invisible codes within files.

Consider some applications in different industry verticals:

  • Sacrificial systems and deception

Inspired by how some animals like lizards can shed their tails to protect vital organs, healthcare cybersecurity could utilize "sacrificial systems" - offering up less critical systems or data as decoys to distract and study cyber attackers, buying time to strengthen protection of the most sensitive medical information.

Biomimicry in Space Suits: A Journey from Earth to Beyond

  • Radiation Protection Inspired by Fungi

Recent studies have explored the potential of fungi, particularly those thriving in the radioactive wasteland of Chernobyl, to protect astronauts from cosmic rays. These fungi utilize radiation as an energy source, suggesting their potential to develop into living, self-repairing shields for spacesuits or extraterrestrial habitats.

  • Temperature Regulation Modeled After Arctic Animals

The design of modern spacesuits has also been influenced by animals that thrive in Arctic extremes. By mimicking the insulating properties of polar bear fur, which reflects heat and retains warmth, engineers are developing suits that protect astronauts from the harsh temperatures of space without relying excessively on onboard power.

  • Octopus-Inspired Versatility for Astronauts

The octopus is renowned for its flexibility and problem-solving skills, making it an excellent model for enhancing the functionality of spacesuits and robotic appendages used in space. Inspired by the structure of octopus tentacles, new designs aim to increase the mobility and efficiency of astronauts when performing complex tasks in the challenging environment of space.

The Use of Biomimicry in Space Suits: A Journey from Earth to Beyond

As a result of biomimicry, space suits are undergoing a dramatic transformation from their clumsy and uncomfortable past. To build spacesuits that can withstand radiation and very high or low temperatures, scientists are studying species that thrive in these environments on Earth.

Fungi that thrive in very hostile settings are being studied by scientists as a potential radiation shield. The inherent radiation-blocking properties of these fungi make them ideal materials for space suits designed to shelter humans from cosmic rays.

Another primary concern in space is temperature regulation. A new kind of spacesuit, modeled after furry creatures, might let humans endure the frigid vacuum of space without using excessive electricity. Additionally, these outfits might withstand the scorching heat by emulating how some birds reflect it.

Adapting quickly is essential in space, and octopuses are a great example. Astronauts may find it simpler to move around and do their tasks in space if future space suits borrow features and materials from octopus tentacles.

The Benefits of Biomimicry

Taking cues from nature allows us to address human issues and do so in a manner that has been fine-tuned over millions of years of development. Regarding data security and space exploration, biomimicry teaches us that nature often has the finest technological answers figured out. If you want to know what may motivate the next significant technological advancement, all you must do is look around you the next time you are outside.

Clearly, the translations from the natural world to the digital realm will not be perfect replicas, as precise duplications are impractical. However, it is essential to derive inspiration from the unique features and defense mechanisms of organisms. Given the rapid evolution of new threats, this approach is more crucial now than ever before.

Resources

https://heimdalsecurity.com/blog/cybersecurity-and-biology-biomimicry-and-innovation-inspired-by-nature/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29675411/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5895716/

https://hackernoon.com/cybersecurity-biomimicry-why-what-and-how-we-could-learn-from-nature

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