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You are here: science news for 15.05.2004 < News < Home

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learning from nature

how whales swim

“The sleek flipper performance was similar to a typical airplane wing. But the tubercle [imitation of a humpback whale] flipper exhibited nearly 8 percent better lift properties, and withstood stall at a 40 percent steeper wind angle. The team was particularly surprised to discover that the flipper with tubercles produced as much as 32 percent lower drag than the sleek flipper.”

“ This new understanding of humpback whale flipper aerodynamics has implications for airplane wing and underwater vehicle design. Increased lift (the upward force on an airplane wing) at higher wind angles affects how easily airplanes take off, and helps pilots slow down during landing.

“Improved resistance to stall would add a new margin of safety to aircraft flight and also make planes more maneuverable. Drag -- the rearward force on an airplane wing -- affects how much fuel the airplane must consume during flight.”

how caterpillars crawl

“ Tufts University neurobiologist Barry Trimmer is inching his way to unlocking the secrets behind the way caterpillars maneuver and climb, and is using that knowledge to one day build flexible robots that could explore internal organs, blood vessels and the insides of pipelines.”

“ Trimmer is working with Tufts colleagues across the University in physics, mathematics and mechanical engineering, and often employs undergraduate researchers as well.”

Link for illustrations.

and why flounders do not freeze

“ This finding also opens the possibility of transferring genes from winter flounder into salmon, for example, to make them more freeze-resistant for fish farming, or into crops to make them more frost-resistant to extend their growing season. These applications could be realized with concentrations of hyperactive AFPs 10 to 100-fold lower than would be required with the previously discovered fish AFPs.”

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