close up woman hand watering a green young plant

The Nature Of Things

Look around… you may find that nature has already solved your problem.

It really is surprising how much there is to learn from nature. If you think about it, nature and all things around us are the embodiment of classical physics, quantum mechanics, chemistry, biology … the list goes on.

At the environmental fluid mechanics lab at UKZN, we strive to draw inspiration from nature. There is so much to learn in the simple act of observing things. For example have a look at the Rotifer in the video below chomping away on all our algae! Rotifers are multi cellular organisms that feed on algae. You can find out more about them here. Look closely at the eddies the Rotifer makes on either side of his mouth.

It turns out that the Rotifer has tiny cilia (hair like things) on it’s mouth that it moves in a certain way to generate those eddies. The eddies are a property of the velocity field that pull the algae (or food source) towards the Rotifer. This makes for very efficient feeding.

Rotifers are not the only organisms that do this. Have a look at the video below. A group from Stanford University has been studying how starfish larvae manipulate the fluid around them to efficiently capture food (also algae in this instance). A link to the paper can be found here.

It is the nature of things to explore and observe what is going on around us. It is the nature of life to solve problems placed before it. It is in nature where we can draw inspiration to advance science and engineering.