Joel, it's actually both. The scales' flexibility is important for multiple reasons, according to the original study, which stated that the corrugated surface helps enable the flexibility of the outer layer of scales, which in turn leads to the difficulty of penetration by piranha teeth.
You're right, Rob. Beth has pointed out that biomimicry is very prevalent these days in several technology design areas. Materials seems like an obvious place to get inspiration from nature, since there are so many successful ones that have been "invented" which are there for the observing.
You are so right. The (if you will pardon the crude expression) machine we call nature is amazing and quite often has the most efficient process for doing what needs to be done. If you subscribe to the theroy of an original creator, look at the mechanics of people and insects how all the joints work.
I am sure that the first engineer to try and create an artifical knee or hip found that it is not as easy as it looks. The human knee when climbing stairs can be exposed to stress of up to five times the persons weight, and for most of us keep doing that for a very long time. But I digress.
Where applicable we should mimic nature as much as possible. Like the research into creating materials from spider web or silk material. Which is much stronger than the materials we are trying to replace.
That is a good analysis of what is likely to happen. I find it fastenating that there is another fish that can live with the Piranha. Piranha fish eat anything in site.
The item I find interesting is that the fibers are stacked criss-cross and yet the skin stays flexible enough to let the fish swim. I am sure that at this point the people that make bulistic resistant garments are starting to research how this will help them make better products. (I mention this because one of the local law enforcement agenicies had a problem with some of their balistic armor).
I wonder whether the corrugation of the scale surface is a factor for its puncture resistance, aside from helping to keep the scale surface flexible. A piranha tooth (or knife, or anything sharp) penetrates by concentrating force on a small area. When you try to puncture a flexible material with a hard, corrugated surface, the sharp edge slides into the corrugation troughs. Maybe the hard surface cracks there. Then the material bends, causing adjacent corrugation ridges to clamp onto the sharp object, increasing the area in contact and effectively blunting the sharp edge. The tooth may find it harder to cut after penetrating the hard outer layer than before penetration.
I watched the video from your link, Ann. I was hoping to see an actual piranha try to bite down on the scales, but it's just a piranha tooth, not an entire piranha. If they put the piranha vs. arapaima matchup on the television show, River Monsters, they'd probably get some good ratings. I'd watch.
Thanks, Dave, for the author info and that book link. Meyers has indeed done several different biomimicry architecture projects. I ran across his work on abalone structure when I wrote the abalone-architecture story:
Alex, Do you know if those FEMA-compliant doors were solid wood, or made from plywood by any chance? The reason I ask is because plywood was used as a metaphor for the way the collagen fibers are stacked in the fish scale architecture. I've also seen it used as a metaphor in other composite architectures I've written about.
Re the moon base, notwithstanding the derision Newt Gingrich got for suggesting it, I would really like to see a return to manned space program. That was a seeder for a lot of technology as well as a lot of tech jobs. And it's intrinsically important stuff, to us engineers, anyway. As for the preppers stuff, yeah, you got it right.
At this year's MD&M West show, lots of material suppliers are talking about new formulations for wearables and things that stick to the skin, whether it's adhesives, wound dressings, skin patches and other drug delivery devices, or medical electronics.
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