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Outdoor Economy

How does Outdoor Recreation Inspire Scientific Discovery and Innovation?

 

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Did Ben Franklin discover Kite-boarding?

“When Ben Franklin was 9, his eldest brother was lost at sea, still Ben never lost his love for the water.

On a pleasant day, while young Ben was flying a kite, he decided to go for a swim.  Still wanting to fly his kite but reluctant to leave the water, it occurred to him he need not forgo one diversion for the other.  While in the water he let the kite pull him across the pond without the least fatigue and the greatest pleasure imaginable!”

(“Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv)

Could this event have led Ben Franklin to discover electricity and kite boarding!?

Ben Franklin did spend a lot of time playing outside as a child and was insatiably curious about what he encountered. Franklin’s curiosity would later inspire him to write theories about electricity, weather, ocean currents, and other discoveries that influenced many of the innovators who would follow.

Many scientists and inventors that have led to the technology and inventions we take for granted today have been inspired by their time recreating outside and observing nature.  Nikola Tesla was known to take long walks and spend time at the park contemplating his many theories.  Much of the modern wireless technology was developed from his ideas. 

How does Outdoor Recreation in natural areas inspire innovation?

Outdoor recreation in natural areas has been shown to improve mental and physical well-being.  According to a number of studies conducted over the last 25 years, unstructured physical activity in the outdoors inspires natural curiosity, improves social and emotional development, enhances perception and motor skills, builds creativity, encourages self-expression, and develops appreciation for the environment.

In a Janaury 2005 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Burdette and Whitaker show that free play outdoors promotes problem solving and decision making, which is one of the highest executive functions.  Several small studies along with surveys of parents and teachers have shown that free play also reduces attention deficit disorder and improves focus.

Our experiences shape the way we view the world.

Children that play outside see themselves as part of a larger ecosystem and are exposed to natural laws. Children that spend time in the natural world are less fearful of it.

Many people in the developed world spend most of their time disconnected from the outside world.  From their home, to the car, to school or the office and back, people do everything they can to keep a barrier between them and nature.  The average American child spends less than 30 minutes in outdoor unstructured play.  Studies have shown that the sedentary, plugged in lifestyle may be responsible for the 200% rise in obesity and trepidation in the outdoors. A 2009 study showed that 62% of children surveyed in developed countries had a fear of natural events such as snow, thunder, and rain.  Inventors like Franklin and Tesla embraced natural events as opportunities to gain a better understanding of the world.

Outdoor Recreation is exercise for your brain.

Physical activity in natural areas has also been shown to increase attentiveness and greatly improve the brains ability to learn and retain information. Physical activity causes the brain to function more efficiently through a process called neurogenesis, where new brain cells are produced stimulating BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor), which has been nicknamed “fertilizer for the brain”.

“Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning” according to Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey, author of the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.  Some of the highest performing schools in math and science in the world are incorporating physical activity as part of the curriculum. “Exercise and the Brain” has been the focus of several courses led by Wendy Suzuki, associate professor of neuroscience at New York University.

Outdoor recreation is not just Childsplay.

Canadian researchers found that physical activity greatly improved the cognitive function and physical well-being of elderly adults analyzed over two to five years in a 2011 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

An understanding of nature is being encouraged by many businesses.  Companies such as IBM, GE, Boeing, Airbus, Nike, Levi’s, Johnson & Johnson and others are now encouraging their engineers to spend time observing nature in order to design the products of the future. The study of natural systems has led to incredible nature inspired innovations on desalinating water, architectural design, powerful adhesives, medicines, aviation design, and extremely strong and lightweight materials.

 

766px-Kitesurfer_in_closeup_exmouth_devon_arpOutdoor recreation has also been shown to reduce employee stress and stress related absences causing an increase in productivity and morale in the work place.

“Let My People Go Surfing” was the attitude and book title of Yvon Choinand, CEO of Patagonia. He attributes Patagonia’s increase in sales from $20 million to $100 million from the mid 1980s to 1990 to the culture of happy, motivated people that worked for the company and often went recreating outdoors during lunch breaks and weekends.

Whether raising a child, improving grades, stimulating a business, or developing the next genius, breakthrough invention, it might be time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors!

Climate Change Discussions Distract from Simple Facts

Discussions on climate change often miss the point.  People are already set in their biases and will believe anything that confirms them and reject anything that does not.  The conversations usually deteriorate into either often ridiculous evaluations of scientific evidence or political bickering.  These digress from the clear, simple facts that clean air and clean water are a good idea and benefit people and the economy.
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Saving Energy Saves Money

There is no need for a climate scientists, mathematician, politician or talk show host to point out that if you use less electricity and fuel, you do not have to buy as much.  This means more money in your pocket. It also means that there should be more energy available, which should help the supply side.   You do not have to care about the fact that by saving energy you are burning less fossil fuel and producing less pollution.  You can do it just for the fact that it is good for you and your family.  A lot can be done by just simple behaviors of turning off the lights when you leave a room, keeping your door closed when the HVAC is on, turning down the thermostat at night, and others.  This does not raise taxes or require an act of congress.  A simple caulking gun can do wonders for your electric bill and you don’t even have to care that you are also helping the environment.  More money in the pocket of the common person is more money they have to pay their utility bills.

Industrial Air Pollution Beautiful Nature Home

Where would you rather live?
Less Pollution and Natural Areas Improve Local Economies and Quality of Life

Would you rather live next to a smokey industrial site in a place that is completely covered with concrete or near a place with trees and natural areas?  Where would you rather visit?  Where would you want your children to play?  Natural areas have been known to increase real estate values from nearly 20-40%, which creates more equity for homeowners. Natural areas provide places for people to explore and recreate which raises the quality of life and improves health.  A walk in a natural area can reduce stress level up to 50%.  People are more productive when they are healthy and miss less time at work due to stress related incidents. Outdoor play is good for child development.  There is also an opportunity to build an outdoor recreation industry.  It is also a lot more pleasant to live in a place where you can safely drink the water and breathe the air.

When I played soccer as a kid in Los Angeles, my teammates and I would often find ourselves bent over, grabbing our knees and coughing uncontrollably after a short run because of the smog.   Regardless of what you think about climate change, it is worth cleaning up the air just to help residents breathe better!

The Effort for Energy Efficiency Inspires Innovation

One of the easiest and most effective ways of reducing pollution is through energy efficiency.  This is good for everyone. Wouldn’t you rather heat and cool your home with minimal electricity, reduce your water bill, drive a vehicle that gets over 100 miles to the gallon and still enjoy your lifestyle?  The quest for efficiency inspires scientists and entrepreneurs to create new products and systems that lead to new jobs and businesses. There is some great work being done by many different groups around the world to find cleaner fuels, more productive agriculture methods that use fewer resources, create better building designs that use less energy while maintaining comfort, services and structural integrity, as well as a host of other innovations.  These have created businesses, jobs, and services that improve the economy while helping the world.

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Efficiency Helps Ordinary Citizens

Products, systems and services reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and lower the cost of living. As transportation becomes more efficient and less costly, so does the price of food and products that are being transported. Reducing the demand for fuel means that there is more of it available. That should have as much of an affect on prices as drilling for more fuel.  More efficient vehicles help put more money in the pockets of ordinary citizens.  Of course, this is all good for the environment, but it is good for you also whether that matters to you or not.
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Clean Energy is Safer Clean energy creates jobs that pay well and do not have the types of risks that come with fossil energy. When is the last time you heard of the solar and wind power plant that exploded killing thousands of people and polluting waterways, destroying homes, and threatening to destroy tourism and fishing industries?  Ever heard of a geothermal plant incident that trapped hundreds of victims beneath the earth?  Like every industry, as the technology improves, the costs should go down. A diversified energy sector is safer and more resilient in uncertain times.  Energy that is produced locally means more money goes into the pockets of local workers instead of sent off to foreign countries that are not necessarily friendly which helps national security. At the same time, the locals do not run the risk of their town being crushed under coal sludge, destroyed by fuel fire and explosions, air pollution, or oil spills threatening their livelihoods.  You don’t even have to care that there is also less carbon emitted in the atmosphere.I have been inspired by the ability of human kind to fly and go to the moon, to speak to people around the world on a hand held device, to explore the deepest parts of the ocean, and to reach for the stars.  We can overcome the challenges of the future if we have the will.

Whether or not you believe in climate change, there are many reasons to take the same steps towards preventing it based on commonsense.

Nature Inspired Inventions and Engineering for Aviation

Humans have long been inspired by observing nature. Leonardo Da Vinci sketched several designs of potential flying machines based on the observation of birds.
Aviation technology has made dramatic changes since the first flight of the Wright Brothers.  Engineers now look back to the masters of the natural world to find clues for amazing breakthroughs in aviation design.  The following are just a few of the nature inspired improvements in aviation engineering and technology:
Morphing Wings
Birds and insects are able to adjust their wing size and shape while they fly. They have skeletal and vascular structures that morph into different shapes in order to compensate for the ideal conditions needed to maneuver effectively in the air. Engineers are experimenting with several creative designs that mimic the birds to adjust the wings of  aircraft in order to fit every stage of the flight mission.
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Perching
When birds come in for a landing, they execute a series of maneuvers and adjustments that allow them to make extremely accurate stops on difficult perches.  Birds do not use the standard, linear landings made by most aircraft. Engineers are testing how to recreate bird-like adjustments in speed and direction to help aircraft land safely and accurately.  The aircraft of the future may not need runways or brakes!   Bird morphing wings and perching behaviors  that are influencing aviation design are discussed in the 2011 abstract by Elvin Pineda from the University of Massachusetts.
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Winglets from Outstretched Eagle Wings
The wing-tips of Eagles and other birds have also caught the attention of several aviation engineers.  Several airplanes have been designed with adjustable wingtip mechanisms. This allows the aircraft to make slight adjustments to their wing tips to reduce the drag of the aircraft and improve efficiency and handling characteristics as well as enhance safety for following aircraft without increasing the wingspan. This also provides an increase in lift generated at the wingtip by smoothing the airflow and reducing the lift induced drag . The increased efficiency and reduced drag also improves fuel efficiency.
Lightweight Superstructure
The skeletal structures of bees and butterfly are extremely strong and light weight and able to form different shapes to allow the creatures to flutter from one flower to the next with great maneuverability and ease.  Engineers are examining designed aircraft using similar patterns that mimic the shapes and curves of bees and insects.  Birds also have well designed beaks and facial features that are being studied by engineers in order to make more aerodynamic designs.  These designs have also proved to be incredibly durable.
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Shark Skin

Flying creatures are not the only natural teachers that are schooling modern aviation engineers.  Sharks have a groovy skin that allows them to glide through the water with the greatest of ease.  Engineers copy these grooves in the hull design of aircraft in order to reduce wind drag and increase speed and efficiency.
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Noise Reduction

Engineers are on a constant quest to reduce airplane noise.  A number of creatures are giving lessons on how to keep the flying machines from disturbing the peace.  The pistol shrimp emits a loud crack sound to stun prey and confuse predators while tuning the frequency out of his own brain.  Bees position their honeycombs in a certain way to dampen sound. Owls are experts of stealth and silent flight.  Engineers are also taking a close look at creatures such as cicadas, butterflies, and fish to provide some insight on how to develop potential noise reduction technology.  Some of the ideas include retractable brush fringe and serrated  engine casings.
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These are just a few ways of how engineers are looking to the time-tested methods of the natural world to design the flying machines of the future. That is the reason why companies like Boeing and Airbus are sending their engineers off on outdoor adventures to examine the genius of the natural world.  It just makes sense to take flight lessons from those that have been doing it for thousands of years!
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Top Scientists, Engineers, and Entrepreneurs look to Nature for Inspiration and Guidance

 

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Who is the most influential educator in the world?

There is no one who has taught more people or created more things that we often take for granted. She has taught every one of the greatest scientist from Aryabhata to Albert Einstien. She showed André-Jacques Garnerin how to make a parachute and taught the Wright Brothers how to fly. She showed Ben Franklin electricity, taught Alessandro Volta how to harness it, and showed Nikola Tesla how to transport it. She has been responsible for the first sparks of fire to the modern match. She is the mother of all inventions from every industry from agriculture to drinking water.

 

Yet she has often been ignored, taken advantage of, and abused.

Now, top scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs are once again looking to her for guidance.

Even billionaire, Sir Richard Branson looks to her for advice on how to direct the many companies of the Virgin Brand. He calls her the “Original Entrepreneur” and insists that it is crucial we learn from her if we are to continue to enjoy the wealth that we have derived from her for hundreds of centuries.

Companies like Boeing, have sent their top engineers to Costa Rica’s Pacific coast to study her in order to come up with solutions for better aviation design. Nike and General Electric have also looked to her to create more effective products and systems.

She is teaching scientists and engineers from the Sahara desert project how to harness energy from the sun and grow food using saltwater in one of the world’s most hostile climates. Projects like these could lead to reforestation of deserts and new ways of sustaining struggling communities.

Mother Nature has had over 3.8 billion years for research and development to come up with innovative systems and designs that are extremely efficient and create zero waste. She is open to teach anyone who is willing to take the time to study with her.

Are we taking time to study?

As people in developed countries spend more time in front of electronic screens, it becomes more important to find opportunities to help them learn from the great educator that lies right outside in the natural world. That is why it so important to create opportunities for young people to learn from her.

More companies are recognizing the value of studying nature as a means for developing systems and design even though it is often counter intuitive for their workforce. Not only can new products and services be developed, but also systems of building a more harmonious relationship between nature and business. As Branson puts it, “…we must recognize the value of the natural assets on our balance sheets” .

In addition to traditional education, we should encourage students to re-learn how to ask questions and look to the great educator of nature for answers. They can then use what they learn to develop new technologies and systems, learn how to profit from her abundance and at the same time find ways to take care of her as she ages.

These are the critical thinking skills that innovative companies will be searching for.  How we use what we learn from the lessons of mother nature will determine our future.

Pay attention because class is in session!

 

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 Richard Branson:  Mother Nature, the Original Entrepreneur

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/4282197

http://saharaforestproject.com/projects/qatar.html

http://www.edinformatics.com/inventions_inventors/

Scientific Discoveries and Inventions Inspired by Nature

There are amazing products, systems, and technologies that have been invented as a result of studying nature.  We learn a tremendous amount from observing the natural world and understanding how it works. These designs have been echoed in many different ways.  Here are just a few products that have come from nature’s design.  

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The Bullet Train

The Japanese Bullet train takes its design from the beak of the King Fisher and the plummage of the owl.  It makes it one of the fastest, most efficient passenger trains in the world.  This same inspiration is being used in various aircraft as well.

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Mullusc superglue

So if mussels and acorn barnacles can attach to to the side of rocks and concrete pilings and be able to withstand powerful tidal flows and waves of salt water, why can’t we make a glue that can do the same?  Well that is just what scientist are doing now. They are trying to figure out the chemical structure of the that  extremely powerful mullusc glue to use for practical human applications.

 

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Velcro

 

Velcro

In 1948 a Swiss electrical engineer named George de Mestral came up with the idea for velcro  when he was hunting in the Alps and began to examine the burrs sticking to his clothes from burdock.  He noticed the hundreds of hooks  when he examined the burrs under a microscope.  After several years of trial and error, he managed to come up with the design we know today and commercialize it.

 

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Gecko Tape

Manchester University Scientists came up with the design by studying the feet of Geckos. The tiny hair-like structures called setae allow the lizards to climb walls and ceilings. The tape uses the same type of hairs and has become a popular alternative to adhesive

 

 

 

 

 

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Bat Sonar Navigation inspires new products for the blind

By studying how bats communicate, scientists and inventors are creating new products for the blind including canes and sunglasses that communicate the distance to the user.  These new fascinating tools will revolutionize how the blind interpret their surroundings and may open new opportunities for  other inventions and drone robots in the future.        

We still have a lot to learn from nature.

What other inventions can we come up with from studying the genius of nature’s design?

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Nature Inspired Inventions and Engineering for Aviation

Top Scientist Engineers and Entrepreneurs Look to Nature for Inspiration and Guidance 

 


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