December 2008

Monthly Archive

San Diego Zoo Announces Focus on Biomimicry

Posted by on 30 Dec 2008 | Tagged as: biomimicry, events

I met some of the enthusiastic folks from San Diego at the Bioneers conference in October and so I’m really pleased to see their efforts moving forward:

Subject : Biomimicry and the San Diego Zoo
Date : Tue, 30 Dec 2008 15:01:00 -0800
From : “Helen Cheng” <>

Happy New Year!

Thank you for your interest in biomimicry in San Diego.  San Diego has been a hotbed of biomimicry activities in 2008, and we would like to share just a few highlights.
For an introduction biomimicry and the San Diego Zoo’s activities in this area, attached is an article from the January edition of ZooNooz.
Partnership with the City of San Diego
We are delighted to announce the San Diego Zoo’s partnership with the City of San Diego to promote biomimicry in the San Diego region.  The City of San Diego is a biotech, clean tech and high tech hub; it houses top-notch research and academic institutions; is a biodiversity hotspot; and is an ideal place to work, visit and play.  San Diego is the natural hub for biomimicry, and we look forward to building biomimicry education and services in this community.

Biomimicry Education and Awareness
The San Diego Zoo has entered into a year-long partnership with High Tech High in which students are designing biomimetic invention based on plants or animals.  The San Diego Zoo recently sponsored students from High Tech High to attend the Bioneers conference in San Rafael, CA, to learn more about how biomimicry is being applied in industry.

We offer a variety of educational programs for high school and college students at the Zoo or Wild Animal Park.  From introductory presentations to day-long interactive workshops that teach biomimicry in a hands-on way, students will learn how nature can help them in their future careers.

Corporate Retreats
The San Diego Zoo offers corporate retreats with a focus on green business practices and biomimicry.  Companies can choose modules that introduce sustainability and/or biomimicry, go on special biomimicry tours, and even participate in interactive exercises that train researchers, designers and engineers to think about problem-solving in a different way.  These retreats can be held at the Zoo or at our LEED Certified conservation research facilities.
For more information on any of our programs, please visit  You may also call or email us at the contact information listed below.
San Diego Sustainability Business Forum
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Price: $50 per person
Presented by ESI, the San Diego Natural History Museum and others
Learn how to increase green practices and profits in a day-long forum for leaders of small- and medium-sized businesses.
DESCRIPTION: Can your company’s bottom line and business practices both be green?
Fred Krupp, author of Earth: The Sequel, begins this forum with an important talk about our energy future. This second-annual sustainability forum is designed to help leaders of small- and medium-sized businesses improve their bottom line while making choices that help protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the natural habitats that make southern California such a desirable place to live. This day-long meeting will include panel presentations, case studies, discussions, practical break-out sessions, and fascinating information about new practices, innovations, and technologies that can make your company greener, more competitive, and more profitable. Lunch included.
For more information, visit

Thank you for your support of biomimicry and sustainability in San Diego!

Helen Cheng
Office of Conservation Finance
Zoological Society of San Diego
PO Box 120551
San Diego, CA 92112-0551
Tel: (619) 557-3927
Cel: (619) 517-3216
Jon Prange
Venture Business Office
Zoological Society of San Diego
(619) 231-1515 ext. 4587
(619) 231-0249 fax

Inventors Find Inspiration in Natural Phenomena

Posted by on 28 Dec 2008 | Tagged as: biomimicry

As we close out a great year for biomimicry, here’s a short article from the Washington Post’s ‘Green’ section:

For some, whale watching is a tourist activity. For Gunter Pauli, it is a source of technological inspiration.

“I see a whale, I see a six-to-12-volt electric generator that is able to pump 1,000 liters per pulse through more than 108 miles of veins and arteries,” he said. The intricate wiring of the whale’s heart is being studied as a model for a device called a nanoscale atrioventricular bridge, which will undergo animal testing next year and could replace pacemakers for the millions of people whose diseased hearts need help to beat steadily. Continued at the Washington Post…

Celebrating the “Mother of all Demos”

Posted by on 09 Dec 2008 | Tagged as: events, media, personal comments

Doug Engelbart

I first visited San Francisco in 1985 on my way to Boston for MacWorld Expo. I returned a few months later for the west coast MacWorld. Little did I know that key pieces of the ‘revolutionary’ Mac technolgy were demonstrated in same convention center almost two decades earlier, on December 9th, 1968. It has since come to be known as the Mother of all Demos and today hundreds of tech luminaries gathered to honour the brilliant man behind that demo, Doug Englebart.

On December 9, 1968, Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart and the Augmentation Research Center (ARC) at Stanford Research Institute staged a 90-minute public multimedia demonstration at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco. It was the world debut of personal and interactive computing: for the first time, the public saw a computer mouse, which controlled a networked computer system to demonstrate hypertext linking, real-time text editing, multiple windows with flexible view control, cathode display tubes, and shared-screen teleconferencing.

It changed what is possible. The 1968 demo presaged many of the technologies we use today, from personal computing to social networking. The demo embodied Doug Engelbart’s vision of solving humanity’s most important problems by using computers to improve communication and collaboration.

Today was another great reminder of why I moved to San Francisco! 

Full coverage via Google News and Technorati, plus an interesting mindmap/timeline. (Unfortunately much of the coverage focuses on the mouse, but Doug the mouse was just a tiny piece of the puzzle he was solving.)

Scientists Create Tough Ceramic That Mimics Mother of Pearl

Posted by on 06 Dec 2008 | Tagged as: biomimicry

The roughness of the alumina/PMMA hybrid ceramic controls the strength of the interfaces, which is critical in determining the material’s overall toughness as it affects the sliding process in the polymeric

I REALLY like press releases that open like this:

Biomimicry – technological innovation inspired by nature – is one of the hottest ideas in science…

But what a downer then to read:

…but has yet to yield many practical advances.

Ooops, too fast, now the good news!

Time for a change. Scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have mimicked the structure of mother of pearl to create what may well be the toughest ceramic ever produced.

Check out how they are putting relatively weak components together in such a way to make a much tougher and more durable material. Continued at Berkeley Lab press release…

ShopBot – Moving Beyond Squares and Circles

Posted by on 06 Dec 2008 | Tagged as: biomimicry, products

In the late 80s I represented Seattle based Aldus Corporation. Aldus was one of a handful of companies that fostered “desktop publishing”. A combination of software (like Aldus PageMaker), the Apple LaserWriter and the Mac (not to mention the mouse and high resolution monitors) enabled regular folks to publish high quality newsletters, magazines and books. It was revolutionary. I’m seeing a similar revolution underway in design and construction industry with the introduction of products like ShopBot.

We’ve simplified CNC router technology so any shop can do fast, precise CNC cutting, drilling, and machining, and take advantage of CNC production automation. A ShopBot CNC router is robust, affordable, easy to use, and adapts to your production needs.

Like the early days of desktop publishing , many of the early examples are decorative, even whimsical, but in the just a couple of years designers and builders will understand the technology and use it to design products more in tune with natural systems. (i.e. nature does not build with 4x2s…)

See also