A  Swiss engineer’s dog got covered in burdock burr (a prickly plant, created with heads that easily stick to animals and clothing). He did not throw the plant away; instead, he investigated it under his microscope and discovered a simple design of hooks that nimbly attached to fur and socks. After years of experimentation, he invented Velcro.

Bullet Train

A bird-watching engineer at the Japanese rail company took inspiration from the kingfisher. It’s a bird created with a sharp long beak that does not make even a ripple when it darts into water to fish. The train’s redesigned nose — a 50-foot-long steel kingfisher beak — didn’t just solve the noise problem; it reduced power use and also enabled faster speeds.

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