Airdate: Oct 05, 2009
Scientist: Dr. Christopher Viney
KSC Biomimicry - Pink Sweat
Pink sweat? That's not the half of it. Hippopotamus sweat has an array of uses.
music; ambience zoo
CV: “You can tell the hippopotamus sweat because it’s that very pink stuff, and you can see it around their ears and around their eyeson their faces when they’re basking in the sun on the beach, or just at the surface of the water with just ears and eyes protruding.”
If you think pink sweat is unusual, stay tuned. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. The hippopotamuses sweat has got to be one of the world’s most versatile secretions. Here’s a liquid that offers protection from bugs, germs and the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Christopher Viney has been studying this stuff. He’s a professor of engineering at the University of California in Merced. We caught up with him observing a hippo at the San Diego Zoo.
CV: “Well, one of the things that intrigues me about this particular hippopotamus is because it seems to be not basking at the surface of the water, but spending a lot of time submerged, that it doesn’t seem to be producing a lot of sweat. This particular hippo seems to not be so pink, but that actually is something that I’m very glad to be able to observe here at this zoo. Nature doesn’t ever waste material. If it doesn’t need the sunscreen at the moment, you know, why would it waste any molecules and any of its food to go and produce stuff that it’s not having to use? If it’s going to be under the water, it doesn’t need so much protection from the sunlight. But just sitting here and looking through the window at the hippo with not very much pink sweat on it, sort of helps me toyou know, it reinforces that idea that they aren’t wasting molecules to make something when they don’t actually need to have it.”
Engineers like Christopher Viney look to the world of nature for inspiring new products and designs. If you can imagine a hand sanitizer, sunscreen and bug spray all rolled into one natural product, you can quickly see the value of studying hippo sweat.
Christopher Viney is one of the scientists in the Kids Science Challenge, our nationwide competition made possible by the National Science Foundation. If you know any third to sixth graders with bio-inspired designs of their own, have them check out KidScienceChallenge.com.