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The Material World

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The Material World

Broadcast (2006) Nature invented a whole range of hi-tec materials long before we invented ceramics and plastics. And not only are they often better, but nature has also invented ingenious ways of building with them. In this programme we travel inside a giant sequoia to find out how nature has built the largest living thing ever, and how that might help us make better bullet proof vests. In the forests of Central America, the breath taking, irridescence of a morpho butterfly in flight is all the more amazing when slowed down over a hundred times. It has inspired one cosmetics company to invent an entirely new kind of lipstick, more importantly understanding its beauty might pave the way for a new revolution in information photonic crystals.

NatureTech is a multi award winning series and explores "biomimetics" the science of looking to nature for answers to modern problems. Why are blossoms never dirty and can we also make our cars that way? Why can geckos walk on the ceiling and can we use their tricks to create better adhesives? Why is the spider's web tougher than steel? Could we use silk to make bullet proof vests? Exciting new developments in computer technology, chemistry and physics are enabling us to understand Nature's designs better than ever before.

In Namibia we watch scientists laboriously fill a 3 metre high termite mound with latex, then, under the burning sun, shave away a few millimetres of the mound at a time and photograph it. The end result is the first ever complete 3D model of a termite mound, and it reveals some remarkable stories of how the termites control temperature, carbon dioxide and humidity in the nest. Understanding this, there's no reason why we can't build tower blocks on the same principles. NatureTech, created by the team that made "Limits of Perception".

Scientists are not simply trying to copy nature they are taking hints, extracting principles and applying winning designs of evolution in a new, human context. Visually, this three part series is an attractive, fast paced mix of stunning natural history shots, computer assisted design and CGI graphics of futuristic inventions, ultra modern and high tech as well as showing scenes of the world's leading designers and engineers at work.

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