Flippers might fly, according to an article in Science vol. 304, p1107, 21 May 2004. Frank Fish of Chester University, Pennsylvania and some engineering colleagues have been testing scale models of humpback whale flippers in wind tunnels to see if they could be used to design better aircraft wings. Humpback whale flippers have a bumpy leading edge that makes water swirl as it passes between the bumps. This increases lift and decreases drag, enabling the whales to make rapid turns in the water. Fish’s results indicate that wings designed like whale flippers could function well without having to be fitted with extra flaps and flow control devices that add extra weight and complexity in present aircraft wings.
Editorial Comment: This study is an example of a growing trend in science – studying how living organisms function and using the principles to make better machines for human use. If aeronautical engineers do succeed in designing wings with the same structure as whale flippers they will have proven it takes clever design to make flippers and wings. Therefore, they have no excuse for refusing to believe the evidence for creation all around them in the living world. (Ref. wings, engineering, design)