In The Field Museum's newest exhibition The Machine Inside: Biomechanics,
explore animals and plants as machines built for survival, complete
with pumps, pipes, insulation, motors, springs, and intelligence
Using real specimens, life-like models, amazing video footage,
and interactive displays, the exhibition investigates how cheetahs
run so fast and fleas jump so far; how the bite force of an extinct
fish made it a top predator; how a Venus fly trap detects its next
meal; and how many other organisms function as machines in order to
survive, move, and discover.
The ability to defend against external pressures-like the forces
of wind and water and the pull of gravity-is key to survival. This
capacity often depends on flexibility; skin stretches, bones flex,
and cartilage compresses and bounces back. Biomechanics
also features an array of diverse rigid structures-including bones
and shells-that demonstrate how the dome shape is one of the best
The never-ending race to distribute life-sustaining supplies to
every cell in the body also poses a challenge to survival. Living
things use pumps, pipes, and pressure to move air and fluids where
they're needed most. An exhibition highlight features a giraffe's
heart and shows how the organ's unique structure enables it to pump
blood up the animal's long neck to its brain.
With variations of size, shape, color, and insulation, animals
can stop the heat and cold from invading or escaping. Discover how
a toucan's beak, a fox's ears, and a duck's feet all act as
radiators to regulate temperature. Test out a thermal camera to
learn how much heat your body loses compared to animals covered in
fur, blubber, or feathery down.
Motors and levers (in the form of muscles, bones, and joints)
set internal machinery in motion so animals can hunt and explore.
Biomechanics takes a close look at the design and function
of many types of jaws, claws, and legs, including a mechanical
model of an extinct fish called Dunkleosteus that demonstrates the
sea monster's incredible bite force.
Animals that move through air and water have evolved sleek forms
that harness the power of fluid dynamics to propel themselves. In a
unique interactive, you can experience "flying" by flapping a long
and short wing.
Plants and animals gather information using an array of senses
necessary for survival. Scientists are just beginning to understand
some of these. For example, sea turtles sense magnetic impulses,
and the hammerhead shark can detect electricity.
Biomechanics also presents examples of biomimicry,
man-made innovations inspired by mechanisms found in nature.
Discover how burrs found in dog fur inspired the invention of
Velcro, how prosthetic limbs are modeled on the action of human
muscles and tendons, and how humans have mined and mimicked
nature's designs in other ways to improve our lives.
By delving deep, speeding things up, slowing things down, and
presenting the inner-workings of plants and animals,
Biomechanics gives us with a new appreciation for the
machine inside all living things.
The Field Museum is open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. every day of the
year, except Christmas Day.
For ticket information visit biomechanics.fieldmuseum.org.
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