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The Kingfisher & The Train

By: Michael Blankenship |

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” 

– Albert Einstein

There’s a man in Japan named Eiji Nakatsu. He was an engineer at the Japan Railways Group. In the 1970s, the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) faced a significant challenge: as the trains exited tunnels at high speeds, they would produce a loud sonic boom-like noise, leading to complaints from residents in nearby areas.

Eiji Nakatsu wasn’t just any engineer; he had a keen interest in the natural world. One day, while observing a kingfisher diving into water to catch its prey, he had a revelation. Despite the speed and suddenness of its dive, the bird barely made a splash. The streamlined shape of its beak allowed it to pierce the water smoothly and efficiently.

Drawing inspiration from this observation, Nakatsu proposed a design alteration for the Shinkansen. By remodeling the train’s nose to resemble the kingfisher’s beak, the sonic booms were significantly diminished. This change made the train quieter and improved its energy efficiency, showcasing how nature can guide innovative solutions in unexpected ways.

Sometimes, the solutions to our most complex problems come from the most unexpected places. By applying an observation from one area of life to another, Nakatsu was able to provide a novel solution that experts had missed. It reminds us that cross-pollinating our experiences and knowledge can lead to breakthroughs.

Every experience, hobby, or observation can be a source of inspiration and innovation. Never underestimate the value of diverse experiences and interests in your life. The next time you face a challenge, take a moment to think outside the box and consider if there’s something you’ve learned elsewhere that could apply. Your unique perspective is valuable.

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