On March 30th I visited Nature Mother of Invention, which part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival 2016, takes visitors on a journey through the history of the tropical plant family Sapotaceae.
Sapotaceae belong to the order Ericales and comprise around 800 species of evergreen trees and shrubs distributed in pantropical regions. The exhibition illustrates how the plant family has contributed to a wide-variety of inventions that have shaped the modern-day world.
In particular, gutta-percha – “the latex from the tropical tree Palaquium gutta and its close relatives”, became integral to the Victorian Age. Introduced to the West by Scotsman Dr. William Montgomerie, the substance, which is hard at room temperatures, becomes pliable when heated, retaining any shape upon cooling.
Amongst other applications, acid and water resistant gutta-percha was used to make the Victorian equivalent of the intercom – speaking tubes. More significantly still, in 1847 Dr. Ernst Werner von Siemens used gutta-percha for the insulation of underground telegraph cables.
By 1858 this application had enabled the development of undersea cabling between Ireland and North America, making gutta-percha integral to the development of the infrastructure that, in this day and age, supports the World Wide Web.
Many more past and present uses of derivatives of the Sapotaceae family are explored in this wonderfully curated exhibition, which is also endowed with activities for all ages to enjoy.
Running until July 24th 2016 Nature Mother of Invention is well worth a visit.
Find our more at the link below:
On March 2nd 2016, microbiologist and microbial artist Dr. Simon Park enthralled, engaged and enlightened an audience gathered at Second Home to learn more about his research and exploratory art works in the domain of bioluminescence.
Revealing how he uses the 'organic form of light as a unique medium to disclose some of nature's most vital yet often unseen events', Dr. Park presented wide-ranging aspects of the science of bioluminescence, and its potential applications across disciplines as diverse as healthcare, the arts and interstellar research.
A few favourites from the projects Dr. Park presented are his 'Living Bioluminescent Pages' for a book that glows in the dark, and his 'Bioluminescent Extraterrestrial Message Project (BEMP) that harnesses the medium of Photobacterium phosporeum (marine bioluminescent bacterium) to communicate with extra terrestrial life forms.
Find out more about Dr. Simon Park's research at this link:
On the exhibition's opening day, February 10th, I had the great pleasure of purusing the truly magnificent Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius at the Science Museum, London. A wonderfully expansive, inspiring and exciting selection from da Vinci's enormous collection of scientific and mathematical observations, engineering and mechanical experiments, and seemingly endless inventions and innovations, the exhibition gives tantalising insights into da Vinci's mindset and methodologies.
"Although human subtlety conceives various inventions... it will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature, because in her inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous".
Leonardo da Vinci, Quaderni d' anatomia
The Mechanics of Genius clearly illustrates how contemporary forays into bio-inspiration "echoes one of Leonardo da Vinci's enlightened ideas, typical of his approach: looking to nature for technical solutions". Alongside sketches, notes, scale-models, and other workings from da Vinci's many sketchbooks, including Codex Atlanticus and Codex Trivulce, one also finds a collection of exhibits presenting recent biomimetic inventions from around the world.
Showing until September 4th 2016, and one of the most important da Vinci exhibitions held to date, The Mechanics of Genius is a must-see for anyone with an interest in nature-inspired design.
 Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius brochure, published by the Science Museum.
Find out more and book tickets at:
Melissa Sterry, PhD, design scientist, systems theorist, futurologist, founder Bionic City®.
Asking the question "how would nature design a city" since 2010.
© Melissa Sterry 2019 All Rights Reserved