The shape of cars, airplanes, trains and even bicycles has changed dramatically over the years as our knowledge of aerodynamics has developed. Still we are always on the lookout to be more efficient, we want version 2.0 to be bigger and better…..and faster than ever. Nature is constantly on the move, and in many instances speed can mean the difference between life and death. So it is not surprising that science is beginning to take a closer look at some of the secrets hidden in the fastest creatures on the planet.
When birds fly in a group, you will often see them come together in a distinctive V-formation, also known as a skein. There is of course a reason for this, as it benefits the group, allowing better use of the overall energy, boosting the flying distance by as much as 70 percent. When flying in a V-formation, the bird at the tip is taking the strain for the team. All of the others birds in the formation benefit from their position because they fly in the upwash from one of the wingtip vortices of the bird ahead (Wikipedia). Many airforces use this same formation when flying their military aircraft. Professor Ilan Kroo and his team at the Stanford university believe that with this tactic, aircraft reduce fuel expenditure by as much as 15 percent fuel.
“The Shinkansen Bullet Train has a streamlined forefront and structural adaptations to significantly reduce noise resulting from aerodynamics in high-speed trains.”
This train is a stunning feat of engineering, and few people realize that the design was based on the beautiful Kingfisher. This bird is known for its fast, almost silent movement from air to water. It is their beak that enables them to achieve this, and of course, often results in a bellyful of fish. The Shinkansen Train’s forefront is designed according to the Kingfisher’s beak.
A first place at the Mercedes Benz Bionic Car may leave you puzzled. In my opinion it does not look like a sleek, fast, aerodynamic option. It looks pretty bizarre in fact! While it may be considered bizarre, my other judgements are incorrect. Mercedes Benz took the design for this car from the underwater world, namely the box fish. It is a strange looking character, who does not use a lot of energy while moving. The fish is very unusual, with it’s squarish shape, held inside a lightweight, bony shell. The bionic car was hailed to be aerodynamic, safe, efficient, and manoeuvrable, although it may be the case that the box fish was misunderstood, as researchers at the University of Antwerp in Belgium and UCLA have reported that the box fish shape promotes instability.
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