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Who's teaching photonics now?



It's Shaman, a great horned owl, naturally, featured in the video above with handler Sunni Robertson, a lead educator guide at the San Diego, California, Zoo. Robertson was presenting at what has become a very popular session at the SPIE Smart Structures and Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE) symposium each spring.

Staff from the San Diego Zoo Animal Ambassadors program participate in a session on biomimicry and bioinspiration, demonstrating how studying animals can inspire ideas for solving design problems. In the case of the owl, insights for optical design were gained from studying how owls' eyes function, and for acoustics as well. Engineers looking for a way to reduce noise of Japan's high-speed trains as they travel through cities and across the countryside found answers in examining the construction of the owl's wings.

The zoo's biomimicry education program dovetails with a conference on Biomimetics, Bioinspiration, and Bioreplication, chaired in 2012 by Ahklesh Lahktakia of Pennsylvania State University.

In addition to gaining inspiration from owls, engineers and scientists are finding ideas for sensors in studying spider legs, for prosthetic muscles in honeycombs, and for broadband communications in the nanoscale structures that create camouflage for silvery fish in the ocean.


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