May 11, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Whale Flippers Inspire Aeronautical Engineers

Have you seen the bumpy flippers on humpback whales, you know, the species whose males serenade their mates?  Don’t laugh.  Scientists have found that the ungainly flippers actually have superior lift, less drag, and are less susceptible to stalling.  Engineers are imitating the whale flippers for advanced aircraft and helicopter rotors, reports EurekAlert from studies at Duke University.  “Humpback whales maneuver in the water with surprising agility for 44-foot animals,” says the press release.  Test wings modeled after the flipper had 8% better lift, 32% lower drag, and could withstand stalling at a 40% steeper wing angle.

We don’t need to design so many things from scratch.  Biomimetics is a modern application of an ancient principle expressed by Job, “ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee” (Job 12:7).

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Categories: Amazing Facts, Mammals

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