Friday, 17 March 2006

hook and loop fastener

Velcro was invented 50 years ago by a Swiss man named Georges de Mestral. He was out walking his dog when he noticed burrs on its fur that were so securely attached that they were exceedingly difficult to remove. Their design was a highly effective way of dispersing seeds. Mestral invented Velcro based on this masterpiece and named it after the velours (or fuzzy) part and the crochet (or hooked) part.

This week NewScientist reports that Velcro has been noted as a key element in widespread seed dispersal. Australian officials are disconcerted to learn that scientific expeditions to remote areas such as the sub-Antartic islands are bringing back hundreds of seeds from non-native species, "some of them invasive and a serious risk to the local flora." The vast majority came attached to Velcro strips that are part of the team's clothing or gear.

How ironic. It seems that Velcro does exactly the same job of the natural thing it was modelled after. The Australian scientists are hugely concerned since the "spread of alien species to foreign lands is second only to habitat loss as a cause of disappearing biodiversity."

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