Evolving new species

Strandbeests

Dutch artist Theo Jansen has created a new species, named “Strandbeests”. The creatures can walk completely unassisted, taking power from the wind to move their spindly legs. The full TED video explains the mechanism, but basically the creatures’ flapping wings capture the wind and pump air into old lemonade bottles, which move the legs. The creatures are made from wood and a type of electrical pipe, and feature no technology. They even have primitive ‘feelers’ to sense dangerous water or loose sand, which puts them in reverse mode, or digs feet into the ground.

The creatures are quite remarkable, and the engineering behind the mechanisms has to be admired. The creatures walk with more coordination and balance than I do! I’m still a little undecided as to which side of the fence this invention lies on; controlling nature, or participating with nature? Taking a god-like role and evolving species of our own could definitely be classed as controlling. But the creatures are made from natural materials and recycled bottles, so in that way, are we simply making up for the environmental damage we’ve caused, as well as our influence on animal extinction, to give back to nature?

Just now the Strandbeests don’t actually do anything, apart from walk back and forth along the beach. They can not yet be left unsupervised (Jansen predicts 2 years before they have learnt to live on their own), and the scale of them means they could be dangerous to unsuspecting sunbathers. But the invention is undeniably brilliant. I just wonder if it could be utilised in a more useful way, as a mode of transport perhaps, allowing us to live less consuming lives in future.

Theo Jansen has spent 16 years single-handedly creating this species, and the fact that he has not used a single computer chip to do it should be a lesson to us all. We are so used to ‘technology’ being about unsightly microcontrollers and wires, but when it comes in a natural form like this, it’s becomes something beautiful.

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2 Comments

  1. barclay5426 on April 29, 2012

    Not sure i would classify this as a new species or there being any kind of god like creation issues with this.. Synthetic biology/genetic modification on the other hand (http://barclay5426.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/spider-goats-anyone/) definitely is allowing us to control nature and play god! To me this its just a very clever mechanism, in which case is a petrol engine considered species, except we have to feed this one some oil to make it come to life and not wind?

    • designited17 on April 29, 2012

      Yeah, I kind of agree with you. I think he is using the term ‘species’ very loosely, but I do think they are different from cars as they will eventually survive on their own and are not controlled by humans. It’s not like they will breed or anything, but as I said I think they be more worthwhile developed in to a transport aid or something. That might be me being selfish, but if it’s not going to work as a genuine species of animal then the technology can be used to help us find less consuming solutions to our lifestyle.

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