ABOUT FLUID DYNAMICS: The study of the physics of fluid flow is called "fluid dynamics." A fluid is a material that deforms continuously when sheared. The most common fluids are liquids and gases; however, plasmas and plastics can also be fluids. Understanding the mechanical processes that underlie fluid flow under different temperatures and pressures is important to applications such as the aerodynamics of aircraft, automobiles and ships; the flow of petroleum and water through pipelines; weather prediction; biological function in the human body; and even traffic engineering. Fluid dynamics is also essential to supersonic flows such as shock wave formation, detonation and supersonic transport.
WHAT IS BIOMIMICRY? Biomimicry is a field in which scientists, engineers, and even architects study models and concepts found in nature, and try to use them to design new technologies. Fishing lures are a type of biomimicry -- an attempt to emulate fish food. Here are some well-known examples of biomimicry: Velcro was inspired by cockleburs, which cling tenaciously to clothing and animal fur. The design for the Eastgate Building in Harare, Zimbabwe -- the country's largest commercial and shopping complex -- is based on the region's termite mounds. Both Leonardo da Vinci and the Wright brothers studied the flight of birds when designing their flying machines. Alexander Graham Bell designed his telephone receiver around the principles of the human ear. Sonar was inspired by the way whales, dolphins and bats emit high-pitched sounds and analyze the returning echoes to help them navigate.
The American Physical Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.