You may look at a bird’s nest and assume that it is just a pile of twigs randomly thrown together. However, physicist Hunter King of the University of Akron says birds use the twigs in a way that is “totally mystifying.”
Dr. King has done an interesting experiment with the design of bird nests. He took a piston and compressed 460 bamboo rods arranged inside a cylinder in a form similar to the construction of an ordinary bird nest. As the piston applied more force, the sticks slid against each other, rearranging the contact points. As a result, the rods acted as a group and became stiffer and more resistant to deforming.
The new contact points stiffened the “nest,” preventing the twigs from further flexing. King says the fact that birds seem to have a sense of how individual twigs will make a nest with the right characteristics is “something we don’t know the first thing about predicting.”
So a bird’s nest is more than twigs randomly thrown together. Birds construct them to protect what they value—eggs and chicks. From an engineering standpoint, this research will allow scientists to create new structures designed to protect things that humans value. From an apologetic perspective, this is one more example of the design built into the DNA of living things to allow them to survive in the natural world.
— John N. Clayton © 2022