Fiber Optics;  the new technology breakthrough of the 90’s which helped to make High-speed Internet possible.  A fiber optic cable is thin piece of glass, covered in a protective sheath, through which pulses of light convey the 1’s and 0’s which make up the digital informational highway.  So what does this have to do with Polar Bears?

Polar Bear at rest.

For many years it was thought that Polar Bears fur was able to carry light in much the same way as a modern fiber optic cable.  You see the hair growing on a Polar Bear is a naturally hollow and the longer outer hairs are quite transparent.  The hollowness helps act as a great insulator against the cold, as heat is not easily transferred through a static air gap.  This is the same technology as that found in a double pane (thermopane) window!

Back to the hair shaft of the Polar Bear.  It is believed that keratin in the hair absorbs ultraviolet light and provides some heating effect for the bear.  When you are standing outside in minus 40 degree weather, this can be a very good thing.  So here you have a natural fiber which insulates against heat transfer, but at the same time transfers some of the Sun’s heating rays through heat absorbion, down to the skin of the bear, helping to keep it warm.  This means the bear does not have to expend as much energy to keep warm, which added up over days can make the energy of the last meal go a lot farther.  This can mean the difference between surviving to bitter cold of winter and or perishing before the next meal can be obtained.

Look around and you will find that modern techology many times takes some of natures technology and finds a new use for it.  So, though it turns out Polar Bears fur would make a poor fiber optic, it does make a good model for a modern thermopane window.

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