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.

Related Articles


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 November 27, 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 November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Feast Your Eyes: Lamb Chop Sent Into Space from UK

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) Take a stab at this -- stunt video shows a lamb chop's journey from an east London restaurant over 30 kilometers into space. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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