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Stuart Burgess: Biology’s Designs Tutor Our Top Engineers

Photo credit: ThisisEngineering RAEng, via Unsplash.

A new episode of ID the Future spotlights a Bristol University engineer whose design work helped Great Britain’s cycling team win gold in the most recent Summer Olympics. Stuart Burgess, currently on a visiting fellowship at the University of Cambridge and an expert on linkage mechanisms, discusses with host Eric Anderson how top engineering firms are paying big money to learn from the extraordinary designs found in biology so as to improve their own designs. Download the podcast or listen to it here.

Burgess has designed groundbreaking linkage mechanisms, but he says the human knee is still well ahead of what even the most advanced human engineers have managed in this area, even accounting for the fact that wear and tear and misuse can lead to knee problems. He walks listeners through some things that make the knee an engineering marvel, and takes a look at some other masterfully designed linkage mechanisms in nature, including those found in the jaws of fish. The occasion for the discussion is Burgess’s recent scholarly paper in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. See below for Figure 1 from the paper, which helps illustrate some concepts that come up in the conversation.