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What Dolphins Can Teach Us About Hydrodynamics

July 6, 2009
“The secret is right under our (bottle)noses”
clipped from
The flippers that some marine mammals use to glide underwater have a lot in
common with the wings
of passenger jets and fighter planes

scientists from Duke University,
recently found out just how similar the manmade wings and marine mammal flippers
are by testing scale models in a water tunnel.
the goal is to have a better understanding of how an animal moves and maneuvers
He and his colleagues wanted to know how much energy some dolphins,
and porpoises use to replace the water in their path
All seven species studied have relatively immobile flippers that remain
outstretched like an airplane’s wings.
The bottlenose dolphin’s almost triangular flippers are the most efficient
hydrodynamically. The shape means the dolphin “produces the greatest amount of
lift for paying the least amount of drag cost,”
Howle doesn’t expect the findings to influence the design of the next fighter
jet, but a little biomimicry may improve future submarines.
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