Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bumblebee Flight: New Study, New Data, New Questions

"Flight Of The Bumble Bee Is Based More On Brute Force Than Aerodynamic Efficiency"
ScienceDaily (May 10, 2009)

"Brute force rather than aerodynamic efficiency is the key to bumblebee flight, Oxford University scientists have discovered.

"In recent years scientists have modelled how insect wings interact with the air around them to generate lift by using computational models that are relatively simple, often simplifying the motion or shape of the wings.

" 'We decided to go back to the insect itself and use smoke, a wind tunnel and high-speed cameras to observe in detail how real bumblebee wings work in free flight,' said Dr Richard Bomphrey of the Department of Zoology...."

Turns out, the bumblebee is monumentally inefficient at flying.

This is a pretty good look at today's bumblebee research.

That old saw about bumblebees not being able to fly? That's sort of true, almost. An aerodynamic theory of 1918-19, scaled down to bumblebee size, showed that bumblebee wings were too small to provide the needed lift. That was 15 years after the Wright Brothers' first flight. Quite a bit has happened since then.

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