The Surprising Truth About Inventions

Man has come a long way from the time he lived in caves. From a helpless creature at the mercy of elements, today he is the master of the earth. This supremacy has come from the inventions man has developed over the years.

So if man takes pride for his inventiveness, that pride is well-deserved.

But are all these inventions really new?

Was man the first to use them?

The answer to both these questions is :

No, not in many instances.

Here is why:

Look at nature and it may surprise you that the principles behind many human inventions have been at work in a number of creatures ever since they appeared on the Earth.

Take for instance, the radar. Radar is a relatively recent invention in man’s history. It was first used during the World War II though work on a detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects was going on for many years.

But do you know that the radar has been in existence long before the man had even learned to use fire?

How Radar Works

The radar sends out or radio waves into the space. When these waves strike an object in their path, the beams are bounced back to the radar system which calculates that object’s distance, speed and direction.

The British were the first to use radars against Germany and must understandably have felt proud for their inventiveness.

But were the British the first to use the radar?

No, the radar is not new for nature.

The bat has been using this very system to find its way since it appeared on the Earth. Bats are nocturnal creatures. They come out in the dark only so the nature has equipped them with a very sensitive sonar system to cope with this disability.

As a bat goes out, it emits ultra-sonic pulses which are bounced back from the objects in its path. The bat’s brain instantly computes the type and distance of the object from the returning echo, enabling it to navigate collision free in the dark.

More than a navigational aid, the bat’s radar also helps it to find its prey.

Which Radar is Better- Natural or Man-made?

The BatCredit: By PD-USGov, exact author unknown ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsSince its first use in the WWII, the radar has become a very advanced device.

Now radars can detect not only oncoming enemy airplanes, but ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain with unfailing accuracy. Radar systems also help airplanes to land in foggy conditions when the visibility is near to zero.

If today’s radar is a highly sophisticated system indispensable for the modern time, this sophistication is a result of research and efforts of countless scientists over the years.

But the bat has always had a perfect radar system.

It is believed that ounce-for-ounce and watt-for-watt, the bat’s sonar system compares favorably with the most modern radar system devised by man. According to a report it is still not understood fully well how bats can distinguish between echoes bouncing off insects, another bat or a tree branch.

Othre radar-using creatures

The bat is not the only creature using radar like system to go about their way in zero visibility.  There are others also.  To name a few, the cockroach, electric eel and pit viper use similar wave-detection systems to go around their way, protect themselves or catch their prey.

By the way beware of the electric-eel. As its name implies, it discharges large amounts of electric shocks to kill its prey. This electric discharge can go up to 500 volts enough to be lethal to human beings also.

Now who said that energy-directed weapons are new?

But why take radar only?

Many other modern inventions also are not new to the natural world

Here are just two instances:

 The Spider TelegraphSpider(94934)Credit: By Gnissah (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Since it appeared on the earth, the spider has been building intricate webs which it uses much like our telegraph system.

Woe to the unfortunate insect which lands on the fine strands of a spider’s web.

The fine strands not only enmesh the insect but also set off vibrations to “telegraph” the spider that it has its meal waiting.

Honeybees GPS

Honeybees in search of nectar from flowers fly long distances, often changing directions on the way. But they never lose their way to return to their beehive.

How they do this is nothing short of marvelous.Honeybee(94932)Credit: By John Severns = Severnjc (Photo by John Severns.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

First they can keep track of the landmarks near the beehive. Then the bees are able to guide themselves by the sun and the direction of the polarized light which is invisible to the human eye. This requires yet another ability - an internal clock - to compensate for the movement of the sun during the time they go out and come back.

Add to this the faculty of bees to distinguish between the scents of different bee families. This sense helps them return home by the whiffs of the scent which is exuded by bees staying at home to guide their foraging sisters to get back to the beehive. .

This complex navigation system of bees is as good as if not better than any GPS (Global Positioning System) devices man has started using quite recently.

So what is new under the Sun?