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New Putnam Museum Exhibit Explores Innovations Inspired by Nature

Putnam Museum

Nature has a lot to teach us about solving problems.

That's the focus of a new exhibit at the Putnam Museum in Davenport. "Nature's Blueprint: Biomimicry in Art and Design" explores the patterns in nature that might hold answers to problems in engineering, conservation, and environmental justice.

Ben Johnson is Putnam's Vice President of Museum Experiences. He points to one case where air pressure was causing problems for jet engines at high speeds--so engineers studied birds.

Putnam Museum

"The peregrine falcon uses small bones as buffers in their nose, so that when they're diving at extreme speeds in excess of a couple hundred miles an hour, the airflow and pressure going through their nostrils doesn't cause them any significant damage."

Johnson says from adhesives to camouflage to infrared vision, nature has provided countless examples of technical solutions to practical problems. While humans have been developing technology for a few thousand years, evolution has been doing it for billions.

"Nature has had the ability to solve problems through selection over a much longer period of time. Sometimes you've just got to open your eyes and look out the window."

The exhibit is on display at the Putnam Museum until late October, when it will begin traveling to museums across the country—a full schedule is available on the ExhibitsUSA website. Some extra material will be available until early next year.

Aaryan Balu first set foot in audio journalism at WTJU Charlottesville and WRIR Richmond, and now works as WVIK Quad Cities NPR's Fellowship Host.