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The Shark's Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature is Inspiring Innovation

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Why does the bumblebee have better aerodynamics than a 747? What structural design is shared by a tornado and a blood vessel? Since the Industrial Revolution, manufacturers have built things by a process known as "heat, beat, and treat". They use enormous amounts of energy to heat raw material, shape it with heavy machinery, and maintain its design, strength, and durability Why does the bumblebee have better aerodynamics than a 747? What structural design is shared by a tornado and a blood vessel? Since the Industrial Revolution, manufacturers have built things by a process known as "heat, beat, and treat". They use enormous amounts of energy to heat raw material, shape it with heavy machinery, and maintain its design, strength, and durability with toxic chemicals. Now, in a world of depleted natural resources, entrepreneurs and scientists are turning to nature to inspire future products that are more energy- and cost-efficient. Biomimicry, the science of employing nature to advance sustainable technology, is arguably one of the hottest new business concepts. At the center of this growing movement has been award-winning inventor and biomimetic entrepreneur Jay Harman. In The Shark's Paintbrush, Harman introduces us to pioneering engineers in a wide array of businesses who are uncovering and copying nature’s hidden marvels. He shows business leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs how we can reconcile creating more powerful, lucrative technologies with maximizing sustainability. He injects a whole new vocabulary and way of thinking into the business sphere that speaks to both small start-ups and corporate giants.


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Why does the bumblebee have better aerodynamics than a 747? What structural design is shared by a tornado and a blood vessel? Since the Industrial Revolution, manufacturers have built things by a process known as "heat, beat, and treat". They use enormous amounts of energy to heat raw material, shape it with heavy machinery, and maintain its design, strength, and durability Why does the bumblebee have better aerodynamics than a 747? What structural design is shared by a tornado and a blood vessel? Since the Industrial Revolution, manufacturers have built things by a process known as "heat, beat, and treat". They use enormous amounts of energy to heat raw material, shape it with heavy machinery, and maintain its design, strength, and durability with toxic chemicals. Now, in a world of depleted natural resources, entrepreneurs and scientists are turning to nature to inspire future products that are more energy- and cost-efficient. Biomimicry, the science of employing nature to advance sustainable technology, is arguably one of the hottest new business concepts. At the center of this growing movement has been award-winning inventor and biomimetic entrepreneur Jay Harman. In The Shark's Paintbrush, Harman introduces us to pioneering engineers in a wide array of businesses who are uncovering and copying nature’s hidden marvels. He shows business leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs how we can reconcile creating more powerful, lucrative technologies with maximizing sustainability. He injects a whole new vocabulary and way of thinking into the business sphere that speaks to both small start-ups and corporate giants.

30 review for The Shark's Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature is Inspiring Innovation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I have incredibly mixed feelings about this book. I think biomimicry is an invaluable field and Jay Harman is very clearly a passionate, knowledgable, and genuine messenger for the importance and potential of biomimcry. Unfortunately, I think this book has too many major flaws, which is why I can't rate it higher than "OK": 1) The errors drove me up the wall. Most of them were punctuation errors that could not be explained as writing style, although I saw others in the text as well. It may seem I have incredibly mixed feelings about this book. I think biomimicry is an invaluable field and Jay Harman is very clearly a passionate, knowledgable, and genuine messenger for the importance and potential of biomimcry. Unfortunately, I think this book has too many major flaws, which is why I can't rate it higher than "OK": 1) The errors drove me up the wall. Most of them were punctuation errors that could not be explained as writing style, although I saw others in the text as well. It may seem like a petty thing to get hung up on, but this book is not cheap. When someone shells out nearly $30 for something, they should be getting a finished product. All told, it would have taken an editor two days at most to do a final read-through of this book, and a competent editor would have caught those flaws as I did. To see that they sent a book to print with so many very noticeable errors is insulting to me as a consumer. 2) Jay Harman is clearly biased. His dislike of venture capitalists is crystal clear, and in the third act of the book it seemed like he took an opportunity to publicly call out companies who he felt had wronged him in his earlier years. Much of his narration regarding his own work or experiences comes across as smug or bragging; this is a man who enjoys saying "I told you so." His tone was not approachable to me, despite the fact that I really wanted to learn from him. I think he has excellent advice about the field that comes from experience and is clearly very knowledgable, but he needed to take a step back from this book and make it less of a memoir. 3) The fact that animal testing is NEVER MENTIONED seems like a huge oversight to me in a book about saving the environment by accessing "nature's treasure chest" and copying many movements and chemicals found in animals. It doesn't take a genius to realize that some of the research he mentions throughout the book involved animal testing on some level, but he completely skirts around this fact. To talk about biomimcry without honestly discussing how these animal advantages will be accessed by and transferred to humans is deceptive; it seems as if Harman purposefully avoids this issue to avoid a larger debate about the price of human efficiency - is an animal's pain or even life worth a billion dollar industry that could contribute so much to cleaning up the mess we've made of our planet? If a biomimetic product's development involved animal testing, that needs to be talked about openly and honestly. To hide it or pretend it doesn't happen casts doubt on the integrity of the entire field. I believe in climate change, I believe we as a species are in trouble as a result of our treatment of the environment, and I believe biomimcry presents a solution to these problems. This book has a lot of valuable information in it, but ultimately I found it very difficult to read. I struggled to finish it and felt both excitement over some of the innovations I was learning about and very intense frustration over the author's personal biases and the avoidance of animal testing discussion altogether. I hope this review can help someone who is on the fence decide if this is worth their time, because I still don't really know how to feel about this book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Charlene

    This book provided excellent examples of processes in nature that have been successfully replicated by humans. To name just a few, biomimicry has produced: - painless needles modeled after mosquito bites - paint that resists bacteria or barnacle growth on boats modeled after shark skin - swim suits that reduce drag (so much so, new restrictions have been put in place for their use in competition) based on shark skin - extremely efficient wind turbines and cooling fans based off whale body structure This book provided excellent examples of processes in nature that have been successfully replicated by humans. To name just a few, biomimicry has produced: - painless needles modeled after mosquito bites - paint that resists bacteria or barnacle growth on boats modeled after shark skin - swim suits that reduce drag (so much so, new restrictions have been put in place for their use in competition) based on shark skin - extremely efficient wind turbines and cooling fans based off whale body structure and movement - adhesives based on gecko's ability to walk up walls - more There was a particular emphasis on how products based on biomimicry are not only more efficient and ultimately less expensive than non-biomimicry products, but are also healthier for our planet. This emphasis alone makes the books worth reading. I tend to be interested in the science side of things far more than the business end. I enjoyed stories about the various problems and successes faced by people when trying to obtain funding, trying to help the public understand the advantages of biomimicry, and the like. However, this book was too heavy on the business side for my taste; though I could see it being a valuable resource to those trying to get into the biomimicry business. In that case, this is an excellent how-to book. The author delivers the science through his biography as a developer of biomimicry. He includes tales of wild and exciting encounters with various animals as well as his adventures in business. His animal encounter stories were all entertaining and added to the book. For my taste, the business part of the biography, which was quite a huge chunk of the book, could have been abbreviated a bit. Overall, it's worth reading if you are interested in biomimicry, especially if you are looking for an audio format. I downloaded this free from hoopla. I would have preferred to have read Benyus' Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature but was not sure I would have time to sit and read the whole thing. Listen to Shark's Paintbrush on the go worked better for me. For a comprehensive but brief Ted talk by Benyus, click the link below: https://www.ted.com/talks/janine_beny... The following is the link to the Biomimicry Institute http://biomimicry.org/

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This is the second book on nature and its relevance to the business world that I've read in the past few months and although this one had some more interesting info than the other (Smart Swarm) I still find these books to fall flat. There is a lot of interesting trivia but you must wade through this weird mix of the author's personal anecdotes and his own company's innovations, ideas and experiences to get to them. I'm not sure there really is an overall direction to this book - it seems to have This is the second book on nature and its relevance to the business world that I've read in the past few months and although this one had some more interesting info than the other (Smart Swarm) I still find these books to fall flat. There is a lot of interesting trivia but you must wade through this weird mix of the author's personal anecdotes and his own company's innovations, ideas and experiences to get to them. I'm not sure there really is an overall direction to this book - it seems to have started as a list of ideas for products that can be made by imitating nature. The ideas aren't bad - some are downright interesting (especially, to me, the medical implications.) The formatting, however is just bad and the personal stories don't flow into the topic at hand the way they should. The discussion/interviews that deal with Harman's and other companies' struggles to bring products to the marketplace may be interesting to others in industry but I just couldn't find any decent lessons there: We tried and we tried and we tried and we failed - but we won't give up because we know we're right. Not the most encouraging mantra. Maybe I'm just very far removed from it at this point, but I can't picture the executive who would find this to be full of new ideas, inspirational messages or be charmed by Harman's "wild" stories.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy Ele

    In a world crying out for better industrial methods and cleaner energy, "The Shark's Paintbrush" rushes in swiftly with the deft movement of a shark's tail and the creative potential of an artist's loving brush. The creator has set forth in his creation wondrous blueprint designs for Mankind to take heed and learn from the Master Creator himself. The wondrous ingenuity of the great Artist Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) is all around us even in the most unlikeliest of places. To the untraine In a world crying out for better industrial methods and cleaner energy, "The Shark's Paintbrush" rushes in swiftly with the deft movement of a shark's tail and the creative potential of an artist's loving brush. The creator has set forth in his creation wondrous blueprint designs for Mankind to take heed and learn from the Master Creator himself. The wondrous ingenuity of the great Artist Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He) is all around us even in the most unlikeliest of places. To the untrained eye and nose, the sweat of a Hippo seems to reek of no potential for humanity's use, however, hidden in this amphibious juggernaut's sweat is the key to greater protection from the sun as well as the ultimate design for our suntan lotions. This book was a great privilege to read. Jay Harman is not just an author and researcher, but also someone who has had the gall to create his own company based on the innovation he perceived early on in life from being so intimate with nature. A great observer of the outdoors, he noticed in the creation various blueprints of which he was able to extract concepts for the creation of his company PAX Water Technologies. Throughout the book Jay Harman weaves in and out of personal story narrative and supremely interesting facts about the different ways that nature has been and is inspiring innovation in various industries. The book is worth it's weight in gold just for all of the different examples in which the wonderful creation of the great Artist Allah (Glorified and Exalted above All Things) shines forth. Add to this great reservoir of knowledge, the personal experience of a man who has been in the trenches of modern business, trying to push forth his ideas in order to make the world a better, more sustainable, and agreeable place to live for all of the world's inhabitants (humans, animals, plants, and all other organisms included), and we get a great book. This book is a must own for me as I have always been very interested in how humanity can live more harmoniously with all of the natural elements and organisms that compose our great world. I have decided to give this book the 5 star "It Was Amazing" GoodReads rating. I have also added it to my "Uber Favorites I Own or Must Own List". Also, I just want to note here, that I had several intellectual brain spasmorgasms during it's reading of which I am still recovering from.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    The Shark’s Paintbrush begins… “Most young ladies sunning by the pool or beach probably aren’t thinking about a hippopotamus, let alone its perspiration. However, it turns out hippo sweat provides a highly effective, four-in-one sunblock.” If your interest wasn’t instantly captured by those two sentences, perhaps you should consider reading a different book. Readers of The Shark’s Paintbrush will enter the fascinating and sometimes weird world of biomimicry where lessons and inspiration are drawn f The Shark’s Paintbrush begins… “Most young ladies sunning by the pool or beach probably aren’t thinking about a hippopotamus, let alone its perspiration. However, it turns out hippo sweat provides a highly effective, four-in-one sunblock.” If your interest wasn’t instantly captured by those two sentences, perhaps you should consider reading a different book. Readers of The Shark’s Paintbrush will enter the fascinating and sometimes weird world of biomimicry where lessons and inspiration are drawn from nature and used to design, engineer, and make products for a sustainable world. Read the whole review at: http://greengroundswell.com/the-shark...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jackie Brady

    I learned a lot from this interesting book, and it actually gave me a little bit of hope regarding our sustainability crisis. The answers are out there, in the natural world. Of course, bureaucracy, capitalistic greed, and government are bound to get in the way. The author gives a rather bleak account of funding, venture capitalism, and startups. Still, the science parts are cool. At least we should have something to go on once the powerful get their heads out of their asses.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    The author inspires and teaches about all aspects of designing sustainable products based on the technology of nature. He picks up where Janine Benyus leaves off in her work of Biomimicry. This book illustrates many of the challenges of the business from creating the idea to getting your idea successfully produced. A Great Read!!!

  8. 5 out of 5

    YHC

    Biomimicry is an interesting technology that Harman has spent first 2 parts of this book to offering us a lot of examples. Nature is our best teacher, with the long evolution process, we know nature find the best way to teach us which is the best way. I enjoyed a lot learning from so many knowledge that i could never learn from other books, or at least haven't learned from discovery channel. For the science fan like me, what a great pleasure to read all this information. The third part is more li Biomimicry is an interesting technology that Harman has spent first 2 parts of this book to offering us a lot of examples. Nature is our best teacher, with the long evolution process, we know nature find the best way to teach us which is the best way. I enjoyed a lot learning from so many knowledge that i could never learn from other books, or at least haven't learned from discovery channel. For the science fan like me, what a great pleasure to read all this information. The third part is more like business aspect and the development of biomimicry companies. It seems each innovative ideas would encounter obstacles, the alternative energies would get denial by the current existing energy corporations. Venture capitals play important roles to offer necessary funds on development, but it also became a twisted profit-orientated direction. VC ended up usually taking over these biomimic companies and changed the original eco friendly development.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

    If this book was only on the topic of Biomimicry, it would have probably rated higher. That's a fascinating topic and would be a great deep dive to get into. The bits in the book that are straightforward on how technology can be designed to mimic nature-derived designs are the most interesting parts. Unfortunately it feels like the book skims the surface of that, and instead describes the author's own background along with his experience in dealing with starting a company that bases its technolo If this book was only on the topic of Biomimicry, it would have probably rated higher. That's a fascinating topic and would be a great deep dive to get into. The bits in the book that are straightforward on how technology can be designed to mimic nature-derived designs are the most interesting parts. Unfortunately it feels like the book skims the surface of that, and instead describes the author's own background along with his experience in dealing with starting a company that bases its technology on Biomimicry. I'm not planning on starting a company that does that, so dealing with the biases traditional companies have against nonstandard tech reads more like the author bemoaning why everyone won't just listen to him. Its more memoir than science book, and that's not really what I was hoping to read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Youssouf

    This was a great introductory book to Biomimicry for someone like me who couldn't remember the last time he took a biology class. I believe it is a new fields but the potential are enormous, according to the author. The write told successful business stories about companies using nature as a source of inspiration for great impact. I wanted to know just that, however the author also add some business advice in running a bio-mimicry startup. The reason I gave 4 stars is because I didn't like the voi This was a great introductory book to Biomimicry for someone like me who couldn't remember the last time he took a biology class. I believe it is a new fields but the potential are enormous, according to the author. The write told successful business stories about companies using nature as a source of inspiration for great impact. I wanted to know just that, however the author also add some business advice in running a bio-mimicry startup. The reason I gave 4 stars is because I didn't like the voice used for the audiobook. It made the book feels old, and boring. But' that's just me.... Favorite quote: "A wise man once said that it takes 20 years to be an overnight success!"

  11. 5 out of 5

    Allisonperkel

    The first 2/3rds of this book is selling Pax - and it felt very silver bullet. The last third ... oh the last third is amazing and filled with wonderful business advice. It's clear he's been burned by the VC community. I am a huge believer in nature and it's ability to help us create a better future. I'm so glad there are people like Mr. Harman out there to sing a different tune and give hope in these very dark times. The first 2/3rds of this book is selling Pax - and it felt very silver bullet. The last third ... oh the last third is amazing and filled with wonderful business advice. It's clear he's been burned by the VC community. I am a huge believer in nature and it's ability to help us create a better future. I'm so glad there are people like Mr. Harman out there to sing a different tune and give hope in these very dark times.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Alex Hughes

    Fascinating. I've long been a fan of biomimicry, and this book is well worth reading in its own right, with amazing new products and solutions to all sorts of interesting problems. The emphasis on business and products overall, however, really added a depth and interest to this particular work, and the author's stories and personal experience illuminated an incredible amount of depth of knowledge. Loved. Fascinating. I've long been a fan of biomimicry, and this book is well worth reading in its own right, with amazing new products and solutions to all sorts of interesting problems. The emphasis on business and products overall, however, really added a depth and interest to this particular work, and the author's stories and personal experience illuminated an incredible amount of depth of knowledge. Loved.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Braden

    Couldn’t finish the final parts on business operations. I am interested in the scientific innovations and anecdotal experiences from working in the field, but I don’t have a meeting with venture capitalists about a new venture next week. I can’t fault The author - he does state it will be about business to an extent.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tacoman

    The book is an odd mix of memoir and soapbox. There are some stories throughout the author's life which he relates in which his connections to natural lifeforms are made, but then this is terribly poorly related to some later point in his career. In the end, what I got from this book was 'Spirals, Maaaaaaannnn. Think about it!' The book is an odd mix of memoir and soapbox. There are some stories throughout the author's life which he relates in which his connections to natural lifeforms are made, but then this is terribly poorly related to some later point in his career. In the end, what I got from this book was 'Spirals, Maaaaaaannnn. Think about it!'

  15. 5 out of 5

    Joe Born

    Solid book, gave a good field for what the field is like, certainly didn’t make me want to get into it, too capital intensive and slow and dealing with too many entrenched interests, sounds horrible

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sariene

    Didn't finish this. Too much pseudoscience to wade through Didn't finish this. Too much pseudoscience to wade through

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sherry

    The possibilities of biomimetics are fascinating. I don’t plan to go into business so I skimmed some portions at the end of the book but otherwise enjoyed it thoroughly.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Peter Aronson

    This rating is really three and a half stars, but on another day I might give this book three or four stars. It's an odd mix of memoir, business book and popular science book, but it works well enough if you go into it knowing that. It's also been sloppily edited -- for example, the notes at the end, which are not referenced by the text, but are tied to the text by page number, have, at least in the paperback edition, the wrong page numbers for the most part. The book kind of reads like it was d This rating is really three and a half stars, but on another day I might give this book three or four stars. It's an odd mix of memoir, business book and popular science book, but it works well enough if you go into it knowing that. It's also been sloppily edited -- for example, the notes at the end, which are not referenced by the text, but are tied to the text by page number, have, at least in the paperback edition, the wrong page numbers for the most part. The book kind of reads like it was dictated and then roughly edited into shape. This book is also careless with the facts. Both with general knowledge: Plato is not the inventor of geometry, and educated people in Columbus' time did not believe the world is flat; and with the biology: slime molds are not considered fungi anymore, not all maggots avoid eating healthy flesh, and not everything evolution produces is highly optimized (evolution is more about good enough in the short run) nor non-toxic. These flaws aside, this is an interesting and thought provoking book. There is a great deal we can, should, and probably must learn from nature, and this book lays out some examples of what can be gained and issues involved in bringing the resulting ideas to market.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Miray Boga

    biyomimikri ile ilgili oldukça bilgilendirici bir kitap. özellikle deniz ekosisteminden esinlenilen ürünlerden bahsettiği için ayrıca ilgimi çekti. fakat reklam ve ticari kaygılar içeren bölümler azımsanamayacak derecedeydi. bu açıdan biraz tutarsız buldum. bir yandan doğayı nasıl koruyabileceğimizden ve sürdürülebilirlikten bahsederken bir yandan günümüzün sürdürülemez yöntemlerine takılıp kalıyor. belki araştırma fonu bulmak veya araştırma yöntemleri konusunda da 'biyomimik' yaklaşımlar önerme biyomimikri ile ilgili oldukça bilgilendirici bir kitap. özellikle deniz ekosisteminden esinlenilen ürünlerden bahsettiği için ayrıca ilgimi çekti. fakat reklam ve ticari kaygılar içeren bölümler azımsanamayacak derecedeydi. bu açıdan biraz tutarsız buldum. bir yandan doğayı nasıl koruyabileceğimizden ve sürdürülebilirlikten bahsederken bir yandan günümüzün sürdürülemez yöntemlerine takılıp kalıyor. belki araştırma fonu bulmak veya araştırma yöntemleri konusunda da 'biyomimik' yaklaşımlar önermek gerekiyordur?

  20. 5 out of 5

    David Corleto-Bales

    An outstanding book by Australian marine biologist Jay Harman, detailing how private industry is modeling many new innovations in design--including transportation, architecture, the medical fields, etc.--based on living creatures, from sharks to molluscs to sea snakes and beyond. Harman intersperses the chapters with personal glimpses of his career in marine biology and his start as an Australian ranger in the 1960s and '70s, (conservation cadet, as they call them Down Under). Amazing details ab An outstanding book by Australian marine biologist Jay Harman, detailing how private industry is modeling many new innovations in design--including transportation, architecture, the medical fields, etc.--based on living creatures, from sharks to molluscs to sea snakes and beyond. Harman intersperses the chapters with personal glimpses of his career in marine biology and his start as an Australian ranger in the 1960s and '70s, (conservation cadet, as they call them Down Under). Amazing details about mushrooms, lizards, fish and whales among others.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

    Just starting to learn more about biomimicry. Attended a workshop presented by the Bainbridge Graduate Institute as an intro to biomimicry, while reading this book. Discusses many practical applications for improving efficiency of systems by copying the designs nature perfected over 3.8 billion years. Notable are ahark skin paints, whale fin propeller blades. Highlights the struggles and successes of PAX Scientific companies and innovative design thinking.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Elentarri

    Interesting. More about the authors experience with business practices with some examples of biomimicry. Black and white pictures included, which is always nice. The book doesn't really flow nicely between the authors sometimes irrelevant personal stories, his biomimicry stories and business experience. Interesting. More about the authors experience with business practices with some examples of biomimicry. Black and white pictures included, which is always nice. The book doesn't really flow nicely between the authors sometimes irrelevant personal stories, his biomimicry stories and business experience.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Napalmlolita

    The parts about the actual innovations are interesting and well-written, but there's a lot of information on companies and business strategies that are interesting only to businessmen.These parts could have been made into a different companion volume. The parts about the actual innovations are interesting and well-written, but there's a lot of information on companies and business strategies that are interesting only to businessmen.These parts could have been made into a different companion volume.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark "Lefty" Holencik

    Well rounded story. Jay tells about the actual science of copying natures products for our use and the business end of developing these products. His personal stories make the book easy to read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alice

    The sections on actual biomicry were very interesting, but there was way too much about business ventures, hostile takeovers, venture capital, etc.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rich

    Excellent book for those professionals who seek innovation . Highly recommend .

  27. 5 out of 5

    Roya

    Great book!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rin

    Not really what I was looking for.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dan

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maridely

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