The Gecko's Foot: Bio-inspiration—Engineering New Materials from Nature

Peter Forbes, Author . Norton $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-393-06223-6

Most of us see a gecko and think of ads for auto insurance, but this little lizard possesses a remarkable ability to climb walls and scamper across ceilings. Until recently, scientists couldn't figure out these Spider-Man–like powers as they dreamed of potential commercial uses. Now, according to British science writer Forbes, researchers have used the electron scanning microscope to crack the mysteries of many plants and animals—including the gecko—by studying them at the nano level. For example, studying the dirt-repellent surface of the lotus—an age-old symbol of purity in Asia, rising spotless out of muddy water—led to the invention of self-cleaning glass. Attempts to spin spider-quality silk for a wide range of purposes, including snagging jets as they land on aircraft carriers, have been less successful (one group used genetic engineering to try to create the basic elements of spider silk in goats' milk). The folds of origami mirror the natural folding process of leaves, which in turn has led a Japanese designer to create a better map: it always folds up correctly. Readers interested in how invention imitates nature, and vice versa, will find much to savor. 69 illus. (May 29)

Reviewed on: 02/06/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-393-33797-6
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