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Flighty flexibility


Spiders or mice can make us jump instinctively. Butterflies, meanwhile, use a special technique to escape their enemies.

First they bend their wings upwards to gather air. Next their wings collide to push the air out backwards, enabling rapid acceleration.

The downward stroke keeps the insects in the air. Through the use of high-speed cameras in wind tunnels researchers at the University of Lund in Sweden have been able to demystify a phenomenon that’s been puzzling experts for 50 years.

Their experiments have led to the development of mechanical, flexible wings whose impulse and efficiency ratings represent, respectively, a 22% and 28% improvement on their rigid counterparts.

Butterflies and owls are great teachers when it comes to aerodynamics.

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