Nature knows best when it comes to, well, most things. If you’re looking for an answer to how to stay cool in the heat, protect yourself from pathogens or form long-term friendships, other living organisms have probably already found a solution — and AskNature.org is compiling them for you.
AskNature is a project from the Biomimicry Institute, which (as the name suggests) takes ideas from nature and applies them to social, economic and design challenges in the human world. For example, scientists have learned that hermit crabs use a form of social networking to find housing — empty shells — to live in, and ants use decentralised colonies to quickly distribute food after a shortage.
There are a few ways to explore AskNature’s free resources. You can use the search tool at the top of the page, which will auto-populate related content as you type. Or you can browse collections (sorted by high-level topics like “Life-Friendly Transportation” and “Resilient Food Systems”) or biological strategies (such as “Antifreeze prevents frost damage”).
Within these categories, you can narrow your search by function — such as maintaining community or processing information — or organism type (from bacteria to mammals).
There’s also a section called Inspired Ideas, which applies natural design to engineering conundrums, like how to keep hot beverages hot without using any energy. (Nature’s solution? A cosy that simulates a polar bear’s blubber and fur.)
Even if you aren’t looking for an answer to a specific question, spending a few minutes learning how plants, insects and other animals handle the challenges of existence may help you solve problems in your own life more quickly, more creatively and more sustainably.