Reinventing the wing

Blog post by aldeck on Tue, 2010-03-30 17:02

Everybody has already heard about the famous metaphor “Reinventing the wheel”. It’s most of the time a good advice. However, what happens if your’e not reinventing a wheel. But let’s say… a wing.

A wing is a device that moves though a fluid and produces a usable force called lift, it can be a sail or a fin, it might go straight or make rounds. Compared to a wheel, the problem it solves is much more complex and the domain to which it applies is vast and various. Thus the problem has numerous good solutions. That’s why “reinventing the wheel” only applies to very simple problems, sub-problems or very narrow domains, certainly not the domain of operating systems. Reinventing can be motivated by other reasons, like pedagogy or copyright issues but that’s another subject.

So what brought me to this, you ask? Nature… Nature is often a good source of inspiration, although i don’t agree it should be a model for everything (nature has made and still makes mistakes, that’s the beauty of it, not its supposed perfection, but i digress). So, look how many times nature has reinvented the wing. There are birds and reptiles wings, there are insect wings, mammal wings as in bats or dolphins, there are fishes that swim or fly and even some mollusks like squids. Not to forgot human designed wings. In fact the most surprising, and what got me thinking in the first place, are the vegetable wings, like maple seeds. Yes, the maple (also) invented the wing, well the helicopter even (c.f. David Lentink). And the interesting part is that many of these forms of life have branched before inventing the wing, i.e they all (re)invented it from scratch.

So why write a new operating system in 2010? Are we reinventing the wheel? Well you’ve got the beginning of an answer.

PS: Oh nevermind… seems people haven’t given up on the wheel, search the web for Theo Jansen :)