Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mathematical butterflies provide insight into how insects fly

Date:
March 25, 2013
Source:
American Institute of Physics
Summary:
Researchers have developed sophisticated numerical simulations of a butterfly's forward flight.

In Robert A. Heinlein's science-fiction novel, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, one of the characters states that butterflies are just "…self-propelled flowers." While Heinlein's description of the insect's aerodynamic ability is quite poetic, it does little to scientifically explain it. Four Japanese researchers have done a bit better by developing sophisticated numerical simulations of a butterfly's forward flight.

In a paper in the American Institute of Physics' journal Physics of Fluids, the researchers describe how they mathematically modeled a butterfly as a four-link rigid-body system consisting of a thorax (the segment of the insect to which the wings are attached), an abdomen, and the two wings.

Using data from observations of butterfly flight in wind tunnels, the researchers conducted three different types of simulations with their model that were defined by the position and attitude of the thorax: tethered (where the thorax is fixed), prescribed (where the thorax is programmed to move in an expected manner) and free-flight (where the thorax movement is unrestricted). They found that their mathematical butterfly did -- as predicted -- make use of the tiny, swirling vortices that form in the direction of travel during a downward flap, pushing air down and providing lift. However, they also observed that the flow around the butterfly is much more turbulent than expected. This turbulent flow triggers the complex trajectories characteristic to the flights of butterflies that may be one of the strategies by which the insects avoid predators.

Finally, the researchers determined that the pitching angle of the thorax is the key to controlled periodic flight, noting that living butterflies likely can continually sense the attitude of their thorax and adjust their flapping motion accordingly to ensure stability. The researchers state that their future work will focus on identifying the mechanism by which this control is achieved.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Institute of Physics. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Naoto Yokoyama, Kei Senda, Makoto Iima, Norio Hirai. Aerodynamic forces and vortical structures in flapping butterfly's forward flight. Physics of Fluids, 2013; 25 (2): 021902 DOI: 10.1063/1.4790882

Cite This Page:

American Institute of Physics. "Mathematical butterflies provide insight into how insects fly." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130325125644.htm>.
American Institute of Physics. (2013, March 25). Mathematical butterflies provide insight into how insects fly. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130325125644.htm
American Institute of Physics. "Mathematical butterflies provide insight into how insects fly." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130325125644.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The Wawona Packing Company has issued a voluntary recall on the stone fruit it distributes due to a possible Listeria outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Head Concerned About a Post-Antibiotic Era

CDC Head Concerned About a Post-Antibiotic Era

AP (July 22, 2014) Sounding alarms about the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, CDC Director Tom Frieden warned Tuesday if the global community does not confront the problem soon, the world will be living in a devastating post-antibiotic era. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins