Breakthrough: Electrical Stimulation Causes Voluntary Activity from Paralyzed Patients

Dr. Susan Harkema’s new breakthrough about curing paralyzed people catch the world’s eyes. She and her team developed a small device that can send small electrical stimulation in patients’ spinal cords. The stimulation allowed the patients to perform voluntary activities, including wiggling their toes, lifting and swinging their legs, moving their ankles and sitting up without support. Two patients can even do sit-ups.

New Bondage Inspired by Spider Web

Biomimicry is “scientists and designers are making big advances in a wide range of disciplines by letting nature guide them”, said Jeff Karp, a doctor and team leader in Brigham and Women’s hospital. His team has been looking into nature to get new ideas and concepts that can be used in clinics. Inspired by nature, they developed new tapes, surgical glue that can be used inside a heart from multiple natural creatures.

Recycled Bacon

The fecundity and relatively efficient protein production of pigs have made them popular livestock for millenia.  Most people today think of them only as bacon, or as pets.  They provide no products other than meat, as they are unsuitable for dairying, and their hair and skin are useless for leather or textiles.  

Historically, though, they've served another very important role for a number of civilizations: waste management.

Subways under Water

2014 L.A. Auto Show has a very interesting design challenge this year: Biomimicry and Mobility 2025 – Nature’s Answer to Human Challenges”. Auto designers and engineers have proposed numerous ideas to reshape the transportation and human movements in our future.

My personal favorite: The L.A. Subway from BMW. It reinvented the idea of underwater commuting. The subway vehicle they designed is absolutely stunning and it borrows a variety of concepts and ideas from nature. Check out the design yourself.

Resilience and Collapse of Natural and Social Systems

While I am studying how tropical cyclones influence human mobility, one thing amazes me the most is how resilient human mobility, or human society in general, is. For example, although Hurricane Sandy caused tragic loss of lives, injuries and economic loss, its impacts on human mobility is rather brief, only about 24 hours. People went back to their routine even though major commute and civil infrastructures were still suspended. It shows although natural or man-made disasters can cause dissemblance in human society, we have capacity to tolerate such disturbance to certain extent.

Biophilic Built Environment and Children Development

I went to the biophilic cities conference in the University of Virginia last October with Ben Chamber. Although the themes of the conference focus on design and social science, the presentation from Prof. Stephen Kellert really attracted my attentions. As a father of an almost 2-year-old toddler, I especially enjoyed the part he talked about how biophilic environment is important to children’s development. I searched his presentation online recently and read it again, and think the information contained is worth sharing.

Biointegration and Respect

To me, the most important intended impact of my work is ethical in nature.  This research will ultimately provide a foundation for future building and infrastructure system designs that employ other species, particularly mammalian and avian, in ways that exhibit their intelligence and personalities while maintaining their independence as free agents.  The ‘payment’ for this employment would be tailored to the values of the species, and its culture in the case of social animals.  By doing this, we can incorporate these organisms into human society in a way that does not necessarily remove th

Nature-Inspired Zero-Water Building: San Francisco Museum at the Mint

Nature-Inspired Zero-Water Building: San Francisco Museum at the Mint

HOK’s San Francisco practice has designed a new museum building for San Francisco. Using the examples learned from nature, the building is able to capture water in the air. Combining this water with reuse waste water, the building achieved net zero water consumption.

The Virginia Home: An Indoor Ecosystem

To explore the concept of the built environment as an ecosystem, I am going to discuss an example that I am quite familiar with: my house in Virginia. 

Recall that an ecosystem is a collection of living things and their nonliving context, linked by nutrient cycles and energy flows.

The nonliving context, or physical environment, that we will consider in this post is my house.  I am defining the boundaries as the external walls, roof, and foundation.  There are two doors, a number of windows, and many cracks and holes.  It is primarily wood construction, with some brick.