Scientists and engineers are getting some wild ideas from the wild kingdom
Bird designs help keep bullet train quiet
The Shinkansen Japanese bullet train is among the world's fastest, capable of zipping between cities at nearly 200 miles per hour. It is also surprisingly quiet, thanks to noise-dampening designs inspired by the feathers of owls and beaks of kingfishers. Serrations similar to those that allow owls to fly stealthily through the night were incorporated into the device that connects the train to overhead electrical wires. The train's nose resembles a kingfisher's beak. The design permits the birds to dive from air to water with minimal energy loss, and allows the trains to exit tunnels without emitting low-level sonic booms.
Check out nine more innovations inspired by nature:
Gecko glue:
Sea cucumber plastic:
Speedy swimsuit:
Jet sprayers:
Repellant materials:
Fishy armor:
Whiter whites:
Boxfish-styled cars:

© 2008
Reproduced with permission of MSNBC, from Ten innovations inspired by nature by John Roach, October 21, 2008; permission conveyed through Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.

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