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A Regular Helping of GREENS

MARCH 9, 2007

Izz

Posted by: Izz
10:00am

I noticed something in our Inconceivable! quiz. Designers are copying whales to design new water filters and it said something about "baleen." What's that all about?

CJ

Posted by: CJ
10:03am

It's about "Biomimicry." Copying nature. Designers sometimes get their best ideas by copying nature: it's a green way of coming up with new things.

Whales filter water as they swim with their baleen. It kinda looks like a giant comb. It lets water through, but catches tiny sea creatures like krill and plankton that they can then eat.

Designers have taken that idea and turned it into water filters by running dirty water over giant screens like the whale's baleen.

Izz's Dad

Posted by: Dad
10:07am

Izz, as it happens, I have a photo right here of a bowhead whale. You can see the baleen right there. It looks like stripes in its mouth. They're not dangerous whales, but this picture was taken at GREAT risk so close to the mighty...

Surfacing whale with baleen
Izz

Posted by: Izz
10:11am

Excuuuse me? This is a picture of a TOY whale that you've Photoshopped. Look — I can just about make out the "Made in China" on its belly!

Izz's Dad

Posted by: Dad
10:14am

Shhhh! I don't have any photographs of REAL whales and I found this one in your old toy box. The main thing to know is that biomimicry is awesome. It's used in everything from surgery to video games to home building to fashion to robotics.

CJ

Posted by: CJ
10:22am

Here's another one: Velcro was inspired from the way some seeds have burrs that hook onto your clothes. Look at this amazing photo of Velcro taken with a special microscope by my friend Tracy.

Microscopic image of velcro

Photo credit: Tracy Anderson, University of Minnesota