A tiny artificial butterfly takes flight in a new high-speed video.
Engineers Hiroto Tanaka and Isao Shimoyama of Harvard University and University of Tokyo, respectively, created the tiny butterfly to try to understand the biomechanics of butterfly flight.
But the tiny machine may not teach us too much about how butterflies actually row through the air, said Robert Dudley, a physiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, co-author of the research to be published May 20 in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.
“As a technical accomplishment, this work is impressive, but there are a number of aerodynamic and biological issues that need further attention,” Dudley wrote in an e-mail to Wired.com.
Butterfly flight is somewhat mysterious because it’s roughly the opposite of “as the crow flies.” Butterflies flit about rather than flying in a straight line. That actually costs them more energy, Dudley said, so scientists assume their looping flying serves some evolutionary purpose.