I’ve Been Thinking

Yup.  I’ve been thinking about ants.

I’ve also been thinking about humpback whales.

And I’ve been thinking about how cool geckos are, even when they are not hyping insurance.

Well this exciting train of thought began when I read about an amazing shrimp.

Have you ever thought about how much technology has been inspired by the other living things we share the Earth with? Perhaps you know the story of the engineer who was pulling burrs out of his dog’s fur, and subsequently was able to develop Velcro, based on the structure of the burr. When I read about the shrimp in The Washington Post, I thought, “Way cool! More Velcro type inventions are coming.”

So here’s the deal with the shrimp. This little guy, called the peacock mantis shrimp, punches his prey so hard and fast that the shells and sculls shatter.  (If I might just say, as an aside, ugh!)  Anyway, this shrimp has two retractable clubs. The clubs are composed of parallel fibers – but here’s the important thing – the fibers are layered at a slightly rotated angle to the layer below it – in a kind of spiral pattern (or helicoidal, if I might get even more nerdy on you.)

So this pattern seems to create a super strong material, and scientists have used helicoidal layers of material to make incredibly tough stuff. Thank you, little shrimp!

Now about geckos. Not all of them have English accents, you know. But all of them do have teeny tiny hairs on their feet which enable them to stick to walls. And now scientists have studied gecko feet and have developed Gecko Tape so that we can stick heavy things to smooth surfaces with ease. Uh oh. I see new fraternity pranks coming up.

Humpback whales have bumps on their flippers. Scientists and engineers made models of flippers and have discovered that those made with bumps had more lift and less drag than smooth flippers. So, maybe airplane wings with bumps coming up?

Ah, yes. Let me get back to the mighty ant.

You know that ants can carry things much, much heavier than they are, right? Well, here’s something else cool about ants. Scientists have studied fire ants and found that they can group together and act like a fluid, but they can also cling to each other and perform like a solid ball of springy rubber. There is a New York Times video online that shows this. Ants can cling to each other and form a raft for themselves in a flood. They can cling together and form a bridge too, and even repair a hole in the bridge with their own bodies. There is nothing that a cooperative colony of ants can’t do.

So I’ve been thinking. Shouldn’t we humans be more like ants?

©2014 Margery Leveen Sher


MARGERY IS AVAILABLE TO KEYNOTE YOUR MEETING OR CONFERENCE with a motivational talk peppered with both startling wisdom and humongous laughs:

“Notice What You See and Be a Hero at Work”

Margery Leveen Sher is a speaker, writer, and entrepreneur with decades of experience as a consultant for major corporations and government agencies.  She is the founder and Chief Noticing Officer of The Did Ya Notice? Project, and is currently writing the definitive book on Noticing.