Nature’s Functional Forms, Billions of Years in the Making
Brooklin, Maine–based science writer and children’s book author Kimberly Ridley began her latest project by setting up a camping chair and a wobbly table in her backyard. Then she sat down, and waited. Observing her immediate surroundings, she began to notice a series of forms: A large, black-and-yellow orb-weaver spider spun a platter-sized web. Rotund toadstools and coral mushrooms with crownlike tops sprang up from the ground. A cup-shaped robin’s nest made of mud and grass balanced on a branch of a nearby tree. Ridley was enthralled with the formations she witnessed, and recognized that each phenomenon was a functional design billions of years in the making. She set out to learn about other extraordinary structures in the great outdoors, and chronicled her findings in her new book, Wild Design: Nature’s Architects (Princeton Architectural Press), out next week.