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Outdoor Economy

How does Outdoor Recreation Inspire Scientific Discovery and Innovation?

 

BenFranklinDuplessis

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!

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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Harryemi
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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Aviceda                                                                             Pdx.rollingthunder
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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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What is Environmental Education by Definition?

There are many definitions for environmental education depending on where you look.

Although definitions may vary, there seems to be some common agreements to what it is and what it should be.

Environmental education is often thought of when teaching about the environment and conservation.  Sometimes it is referred to as experiential learning outside and may include things like outdoor classrooms, outdoor adventures, and outdoor recreation.  It also often refers to learning about natural processes in the classroom.

This video is a compilation of various definitions of environmental education from some leading organizations and authorities.

 

What is your definition for environmental education?

Please leave it in the comment box below.

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

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

 


Conventional Economics and Nature: Related or a Form of Brain Damage?

David Suzuki is a scientist, author, and lecturer that has become one of the most recognizable voices for conservation. He makes the argument in this video that conventional economics is a form of brain damage He goes on to argue that economist are fundamentally disconnected with the real world. Whether you agree or disagree, it is worth understanding his point of view.

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