Most human attempts at mimicking nature are clumsy and overwrought, lacking the elegant simplicity and refined symbiosis that millennia of evolution produce. Artificial things tend to look and feel that way, which is why this new Kickstarter project has me so intrigued. Greg Mathy's bimetal flowers react to the temperature around them — expanding in response to heat and contracting when things cool down — and they do so completely passively, without the need for any mechanical aid or power.
The trick is in the materials used. Mathy's flower petals are attached to coils made out of strips of two bonded metals with different thermal properties. Because one of the metals has a significantly higher coefficient of thermal expansion than the other, applying heat to the coils leads to large deformations in their shape, which in turn flex the flowers open and closed. Being able to predict and harness those deformations is what's allowed Mathy to create his neatly simple bimetal flowers.
Besides being clever, this Kickstarter project is also laudable for adhering to the original spirit of the crowdfunding website. It's one guy, describing himself as "a nerdy aerospace engineer by day," with an idea and a prototype, and the desire to build on them. The nyctinastic rhythm of flowers can be a beautiful piece of kinetic art, and these metal imitators do a fine job of creating their own enticing performances.