biologist Frank Fish spied a figurine of a humpback whale in a Boston
gift shop and noticed the pointy bumps along its fins, he said, "That
has to be wrong." But
when the shop manager produced a photograph that showed the leading edge
of the long fins was indeed serrated like the teeth on a saw, Dr. Fish
was intrigued and decided to investigate.
discovered that these bumps, called tubercles, are this creature’s secret
weapon, allowing a whale the size of a school bus to make tight turns
and capture prey with astonishing agility. Fish, a biology professor at
West Chester University of Pennsylvania, is now using this technology
perfected by nature to produce fans with serrated blades that use 20 percent
less electricity than traditional models. This finding contradicts conventional
designs that strive for the smoothest possible edges.
understand this phenomenon, imagine airplane wings. Pilots increase the
angle of the airfoil to provide more lift. But when the angle gets too
steep, the air current drags on the wing, suddenly reducing the lift and
causing the aircraft to stall. Read on.