In the 1940s, Swiss engineer George de Mestral found burrs stuck to his pants legs and examined their hooks under a microscope. Ten years later, he patented Velcro. De Mestral's biology-inspired invention is a quintessential example of biomimetics?applying design principles from nature to engineering. In recent years biomimetics has led to numerous innovations, from "self-cleaning" paint based on lotus leaves to new adhesives inspired by the gripping hairs on a gecko's feet. In his biology laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, biomimetics researcher Michael Dickinson is currently reverse-engineering a fly's "flight control system" to bring those principles to robotics. To learn more about Dickinson's laboratory and the physics of flies' wings, check out the profile Carl Zimmer wrote about Dickinson, "Fly-O-Rama!" from our December 2002 issue (page 28).