Tag Archives: Wing

The best explanation for the design of bird wings is intelligent design

A great post from Evolution News about my favorite animals in the whole world – BIRDS!

Excerpt:

How hard can it be to make a flexible wing flap for an airplane? Almost all aircraft today use rigid wings with rigid landing flaps. They work, but they waste fuel. German engineers embarked on a mission to reduce kerosene consumption by 6%: “integrating flexible landing devices into aircraft wings is one step towards that target,” a news item from Fraunhofer says. They’ve named the project SARISTU, for Smart Intelligent Aircraft Structures.

Birds are way ahead of them:

While birds are able to position their feathers to suit the airflow, aircraft wing components have so far only been rigid. As the name suggests, landing flaps at the trailing edge of the wing are extended for landing. This flap, too, is rigid, its movement being limited to rotation around an axis. This is set to change in the SARISTU project. “Landing flaps should one day be able to adjust to the air flow and so enhance the aerodynamics of the aircraft,” explains Martin Schüller, researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Electronic Nano Systems ENAS in Chemnitz. (Emphasis added.)

What are some of the challenges in building a flexible wing?

  1. Knowing where to flex: The flap can’t be flexible all over, or it would be hard to control. The designers made “five hard and three soft zones, enclosed within a silicon skin cover extending over the top.”
  2. Finding stretchy skin: When the soft zone moves, the skin of the aircraft has to stretch with it. “The mechanism that allows the landing flap to change shape can only function if the skin of the landing flap can be stretched as it moves, a problem tackled by researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced MaterialsIFAM in Bremen.”
  3. Covering the air gap: “Any gap between the flap and the fixed aircraft wingwould cancel out any positive effect,” the article notes. “This led us to develop an elastic connecting element, and this work already covers everything from the chemical makeup to the process technology andmanufacture of the component,” an engineer says.
  4. Designing the material to tolerances: “The mechanism sits underneath the soft zones, the areas that are most distended. While the novel design is noteworthy, it is the material itself that stands out, since the flexible parts are made of elastomeric foam that retain their elasticity even attemperatures ranging from minus 55 to 80 degrees Celsius.”

No feathers, but it’s a start. The team showed off their prototype at the ILA Berlin Air Show in May. Apparently it was not quite ready for takeoff:

When the prototype takes off for the first time it will benefit from a development known as SARISTU, a deformable wing which is currently the subject of intensive research by Fraunhofer Gesellschaft. In future the landing flaps will be designed to adapt in flight to the air flow conditions, thereby always ensuring the best possible aerodynamics.

We celebrate this advance, but you know where we’re going. Birds had it all figured out long ago: the right shape, the right material, the control of airflow, and much more. As Dr. Timothy Standish says in the film Flight: The Genius of Birds, “Feathers do a number of jobs remarkably well.” They are individually controllable, they flex, they insulate, they save on weight, and they can handle the temperature requirements of avian flight. That’s just a partial list achievements in powered flight that surpass anything man has yet designed.

If you want to get hold of that DVD on “Flight” that they mentioned, it’s right here on Amazon.com. I highly recommend it.

I also highly recommend owning birds – because if you work really hard at caring for one for a long time, they might grow to trust you. There is nothing quite like a tiny little bird trusting you enough to let you gently pull open his or her wing for a closer look at how it works:

Cockatiel lets a trusted friend see her wing
Awww! Cockatiel lets a trusted friend see under her wing

There’s more to birds than just well-designed wings. There’s a well-designed heart in there, too! That might even be more amazing than the design of the wing. It is to me.

Note: although this post does not provide a rigorous case for intelligent design, that can be found by looking at the work of Stephen C. Meyer on the origin of life and on the Cambrian explosion. The books that demonstrate the superiority of the intelligent design hypothesis are “Signature in the Cell” and “Darwin’s Doubt“. If you’d like to see a good popular-level presentation of intelligent design related to the origin of life, click here for a lecture.

Carson Weitnauer reviews the new DVD on hummingbird flight

Here is a review of a new DVD from Illustra Media about birds and flight. (H/T Apologetics 315)

Excerpt:

First, the film features interviews with a variety of scientists, a philosopher, and a wildlife photographer. The full list includes Carsten Egevang, Thomas Emmel, Ann Gauger, Paul Nelson, Timothy Standish, and Dylan Winter. While some of the interviews felt a bit repetitive, they were generally woven together with skill, suggestively making the case for intelligent design. (One of the weakest moments is when one of them admits he wants to “make a shrine” to honor the birds).

I don’t see why anything is wrong with that! These are birds we are talking about – not cats.

He continues:

That’s the power of the ‘argument’ in the film: they don’t quote any holy books, they don’t make up any “Christian” facts, they just explain, in some detail, how the different component parts of a bird makes avian flight possible. From the development of the egg, to the first flight of a new bird, to a microscopic view of the feathers, to the unique functionality of the hummingbird’s tongue and the distinct nature of its flight, to the extraordinary coordination of the massive starling murmuration, and the unbelievable migration pattern of the artic tern, the question is raised: how could this have come about by an unguided process of survival of the fittest, random mutation, and lots of time?

Flight is an “all or nothing proposition.” Either you can fly or you can’t. But to fly, birds require numerous, highly sophisticated systems to work in coordination: the rapid beating of the heart, the huge breast muscles to power the wings, an efficient respiratory system, a lightweight digestive system, navigational systems for migration, an internal gyroscope for stable flight, acute vision to identify food, and more. How could all of these interconnected systems have emerged, without any foresight or plan, to create the new ability to fly?

Furthermore, it is clear that hummingbirds are a very unique kind of bird, with, for example, wings that can beat more than a hundred times a second and a heart that can beat more than 1,250 times a minute. Hummingbirds eat so much, the equivalent amount of daily food for an adult human would be 150 pounds a day! To accomplish this feeding frenzy, the tongue extends and withdraws a unique mechanism in less than one-twentieth of a second, thousands of times a day.

The second line of argument is the comparison of birds with award-winning, groundbreaking examples of intelligently designed flying machines. That is, when you compare a Boeing 747 or the “Nano Air Vehicle” (an experimental surveillance drone), it is evident that the flying systems of birds are more advanced. Why, the film asks, if we so readily accept ‘intelligent design’ for 747s, are we averse to using this same explanation for birds?

[…]The third feature is a wide range of computer animations that provide detail and insight into various biological components. I was worried these might be cheesy or overwrought, but they are instead illuminating and interesting. Nor are they stuffed into the film to show off some fancy computer graphics, but inserted with purpose, to more emphatically make distinct points. The professional standards make these animations a strong addition to the overall effect of the film.

I already have this DVD, and I am going to watch it this weekend, and this review makes me even more interested in doing that. Sometimes I quote something from a review here and think “now the readers don’t need to read it” but I really do recommend clicking through and reading this review of the Flight DVD. He’s not just reviewing the DVD, there are a lot of opinions and ideas in there!

I noticed that Carson had some words of caution about Paul Nelson and Tim Standish because they are young Earth creationists, but I don’t think that is a problem because there is a huge difference between a Ken Ham or a Ken Hovind and a Paul Nelson or a Tim Standish. Paul Nelson has a PhD in philosophy of science from the University of Chicago and Tim Standish has a PhD in biology from George Mason University. They are also both involved with the intelligent design movement. These are not outsiders.

By the way, I posted previously about how scientists are trying to reverse engineer the design of the flight feature in the hummingbird system, for use in nanorobotics.

UPDATE: Eric Chabot of Ratio Christi has another review of it here.

Scientists trying to mimic the design of hummingbirds with nanorobots

From Evolution News.

Excerpt:

In the Illustra documentary Flight, Dr. Thomas Emell of the University of Florida asks us to consider the speed of the synapses firing during the birds’ wingbeats (more than 100 times a second) and heartbeats (1,250 times a minute). Now, we see that each wingbeat, taking place in less than 10 milliseconds, involves even more control: tuning the wing shape at each position to optimize lift.

Masateru Maeda, a PhD student at Chiba University in Japan, captured the footage.

The ultimate aim of his measurements of the movements of the wings is to copy their function in the design of flying robots.

If something works, it’s “not happening by accident,” Discovery Institute Fellow Paul Nelson reminds us in the Illustra film. He describes how the unique shape of the shoulder bone allows the wing to invert on the reverse stroke, creating lift on both strokes. Now, Maeda has found that hovering also requires the hummingbirds to be able to sense their wings’ shapes and respond accordingly.

Mr Maeda said that the birds must have a very acute sense of their wings’ shape in order to remain so still in the air.

“If the wing shape isn’t optimised,” he explained, “it will fail to produce lift and the bird will start to sink.

“So it must be able to sense this and correct the shape of its wings.”

What this implies is that the wing shape (involving control of the flight feathers’ ability to slide as they flap), is under instantaneous control of the hummingbirds’ central nervous system. The speed of signals from brain to flight muscles now becomes even more astonishing.

In the documentary, viewers see a robotic hummingbird called the Nano Air Vehicle able to hover in mid-air. Its wings, however, perform simple back-and-forth movements while its stiff body floats upright in a fixed position. It has no internal guidance system, no heart or brain, and no fine control of wing shape. Without the human operator and his joystick, it would crash into the nearest wall. No wonder Nelson says that, despite its being a “sensational piece of engineering,” it is still “light years behind the bird that inspired its creation.”

What the Evolution News article didn’t mention is that even if the scientists and engineers can mimic the flying capability of hummingbirds by intelligently designing robots, they are missing out on a valuable aspect of what makes a humminbird a hummingbird. Can you guess what it is?

Take a look at this video:

Isn’t that amazing? Now, everyone knows that I am huge admirer of birds, and I have had birds as pets for most of my life. I know what these amazing little creatures can do firsthand. Not only can they fly, but they can build relationships with human beings – trusting them not to hurt them. No robot hummingbird can do that. Hummingbirds are exquisitely designed, and their design cries out for an explanation.