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Living Things and Flight Technology

Which is the most flawless, efficient flying machine? A Skorsky helicopter, a Boeing 747 passenger jet, or an F-16 fighter?

The words, beginning a scientific article about birds in Reader's Digest, provide an answer to that question, stating that compared to birds, a marvel of aerodynamics, even the most advanced aircraft are nothing more than crude copies.61

Birds are perfect flying machines. Any vehicle needs to be fairly light in order to fly. This applies right down to the screws and bolts used to attach the wings. This explains why airplane manufacturers always try to use special materials that are light but also strong and resistant to blows. But despite all the efforts expended toward this goal, we humans are nowhere near birds in this field. Have you ever seen a bird explode or fall apart in mid-air? Or a bird lose a wing because the connections to its body have become weakened?

The flawless designs in birds have an enormous influence on the development of aviation. Indeed, the Wright brothers, regarded as the inventors of the airplane, used the vulture wing as a model when building the wings of their Kitty Hawk plane.62

Left: Planes fly much faster than birds, but give off a lot of heat during flight. In a bird's body, however, the air circulation works just like a cooling system. It is therefore impossible to hit a bird with a heat-seeking missile as one can with a plane.

Right : In terms of flexibility and maneuverability, birds are far superior to planes. A bird’s neck allows its beak to reach any part of the body, so that the bird is easily able to maintain its feathers, the most important component of its flight. During flight, the neck also establishes balance, as is the case with the flamingo. Progress made in aeronautics over the past century led to the nose of Concorde, which was able to swivel up and down—a design actually copied from dolphins. 

Hollow bones, powerful chest muscles to move those bones, feathers with properties that enable them to remain in the air, aerodynamic wings, a metabolism that meets high energy needs… All these features, which clearly show that birds are the product of design, also give them extraordinary abilities in the air.

The flap of a plane (the movable surface attached to the rear edge of the wing that is used to create lift or drag) can't repair itself when damaged or even replace itself. Feathers, however, which serve the same function for birds, can do so, thanks to the impeccable system God gave them.

 

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Try to tear a feather apart, and you’ll meet considerable resistance, because filaments of the feathers are closely bound together by small hooks known as barbicels. A split feather even has the power to repair itself. Just rubbing a feather a few times “with the grain” lets these tiny hooks grip themselves together once again.

Birds are more advanced than planes in a great many other regards. Birds such as the raven and dove can turn somersaults in the air, and hummingbirds can remain suspended in flight. They can change their minds in flight and suddenly alight on a branch. No airplane can perform such maneuvers.

Even before the airplane had been discovered, the flawless design employed by birds in order to fly influenced a great many inventors. As is recorded in early silent movies, in the 19th century some individuals actually tied homemade wings onto their arms and hurled themselves into space, trying to imitate the movements of birds. Predictably, it did not take them long to realize that wings alone were not enough to permit them to fly.

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The cobra maneuver performed by Russian pilot Victor Pougatchev in his Su-27 jet has gone down in the history of aviation. The maneuver allowed Pougatchev to halt his plane in the air for a moment, causing an enemy plane to pass underneath. ("Yeni Avcı Uçakları:Pougatchev'in Kobraları," (New Hunter Planes: Pougatchev's Cobras) Asst. Prof. Selcuk Aslan, Bilim ve Teknik, Mar. 1990, 57-58.) Yet Pougatchev’s maneuver is as nothing compared to what the hummingbird does.

Since then, mankind has made considerable progress in terms of scientific techniques, and research and development. Yet some are still making claims at least as hollow and irrational as those early inventors. In their view, reptiles turned into birds gradually, stage by stage. This imaginary mechanism of gradual evolution has no foundation to support it. Birds possess a totally different structure from land-dwelling creatures. Their bone and muscle structure, feathers, aerodynamic wings and metabolisms bear not the slightest similarity to those of reptiles,63 and the alleged gradual evolution model cannot account for even one of their bodily mechanisms.

Birds’ bodies are specially designed for flight. A glance at a bird’s neck is sufficient to illustrate this. A sparrow’s consists of 14 vertebrae, the same number as in the giraffe. This allows the bird to easily maintain its balance in the air, to hunt, and to care for its feathers.

The New Objective in Aeronautics: A Wing that Changes Shape According to Prevailing Conditions

As they fly, birds can use their wings in the most efficient way possible, automatically changing to deal with factors like temperature and wind. Currently, companies engaged in airplane technology are actively seeking to develop designs that make use of these features.

Owls silently glide at night to catch their prey unawares, then suddenly swoop down. According to the findings of researchers at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, an owl’s flight feathers—unlike most birds, the flight feathers of whose have a sharp, clean edge—have soft fringes that decrease the turbulence, and thus the noise, of air as it flows over wing. Military designers hope that stealth airplanes can be made even stealthier by imitating the owl’s wings. It is hoped that planes now invisible to radar will be completely silent. (Robin Meadows, "Designs from Life," Zooger, July/August 1999.)

Birds’ wing structures are a marvel of design. By their masterful use of the exact same wing structure, a bird can manage to fly in heat or cold, in windy or still conditions. This feature attracted scientists’ attention and led them to try to produce a wing that could change shape according to changing conditions. The picture shows a cross-section of a wing designed with that purpose in mind.

Don't you see that everyone in the heavens and earth glorifies God, as do the birds with their outspread wings?
(Qur'an, 24: 41)

“Do you not know that God is He to Whom the kingdom of the heavens and the earth belongs and that, besides God, you have no protector and no helper?”
(Qur’an, 2:107)

NASA, Boeing and the U.S. Air Force have designed a flexible wing, made of glass fibers, that can change its shape according to data from a computer inside the plane. This computer will also be able to process data from measuring equipment regarding flight conditions such as temperature, wind force, etc.64

Airbus, another firm working in this field, is trying to build adaptive wings that can change shape according to prevailing conditions, in order to reduce fuel consumption as much as possible.65

In short, birds' wing structures are literally a marvel of design. For many years, their matchless ability in flying has been a source of inspiration for engineers. God has equipped these creatures in the best possible manner for flight. He draws attention to them in the following verse:

Haven't they looked at the birds above them, with wings outspread and folded back? Nothing holds them up but the All-Merciful. He sees all things.
(Qur'an, 67: 19)

How Birds' Wings Are Shaping Flight Technology

The shape of birds' wings is the determining factor in their ability to fly. Wings of fast-flying birds like the falcon, hawk, and swallow are long, narrow and pointed—features that have served as a guide to flight engineers. ("Kusursuz Ucus Makineleri" (Perfect Flight Machines), Bilim ve Teknik, 23.)  

The study of bird flight has led to important changes in the structure of airplane wings.

One of the first planes to make use of these changes was the American F-111 fighter. F-111 did not have control surfaces such as ailerons and flaps, which are used to control movements of the aircraft. Instead, just as birds do, the fighter could sweep its wings. This allowed it to remain balanced even while turning.66

For high-speed flight, the most advantageous wing shape is one swept back. On the other hand, straight wings allow greater lift, important for takeoff and landing. The only way of benefiting from both these features is to construct variable-sweep wings, capable of moving backward and forward. (Clive Gifford, Her Yonuyle Ucaklar, (Cutaway Planes) TUBITAK4th ed.,   January 1999, 24.) 

Fighters such as the Tornado and F-111 have just such wings, the sweep of which can be changed in flight. This design, the result of long study, has been present in birds since the moment of their creation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspired by bird bones—which are hollow, making them very light—the wings of modern planes are designed to be hollow also.

 

The albatross has long wings with a large surface area, allowing the bird to fly long distances without flapping its wings. Gliders designed along the lines of the albatross wing are thus able to remain in the air for long periods of time without the need for a propeller.

During takeoff and landing, birds prefer to face into the wind so that they expend less energy. Airport runways are also sited to face prevailing winds, so that planes expend less energy during takeoff.

In Aviation Research, the Vulture's Feathers Show the Way

During a plane's flight, pressure changes at the wing's edge can form small vortexes—air currents at the edges of the wings that can impede flight performance.

Aviation research studies have revealed that when vultures fly, they open their quill feathers—the large feathers at the edge of the wing—like the fingers of a hand. From this observation, researchers thought of taking it as a model to make small metal ailerons and test them in flight. Using these, they hoped it would be possible to reduce the vortexes' unwelcome effects on a plane by setting up a series of smaller vortexes to replace the large ones that had previously been causing problems. Experiments proved this idea to be correct, and they are now seeking to implement it in real aircraft.

20th-Century Science Failed to Unravel the Aerodynamic Techniques That Insects Use to Fly

Michael Dickinson

As an insect flies, it beats its wings an average of several hundred times a second. Some insects can even flap and rotate their wings 600 times a second.67

So many movements are carried out with such extraordinary rapidity that this design can't possibly be reproduced technologically. In order to reveal the flight techniques of fruit flies, Michael Dickinson, a professor in the department of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues constructed a robot, called Robofly. Robofly imitates the insect's flapping motion, but on a 100-fold larger scale and at only a 1,000th of the fly's speed. It can flap its wings once every five seconds, driven by six computer-controlled motors.68

For years, many scientists like Professor Dickinson have been carrying out experiments hoping to discover the details of how insects flap their wings back and forth. During his experiments on fruit flies, Dickinson discovered that insect wings do not merely oscillate up and down, as if attached by a simple hinge, but actually use the most complex aerodynamic techniques. Moreover, the wings change orientation during each flap: The wing's top surface faces up as the wing moves downwards, but then the wing rotates on its axis so that the underside faces up as the wing rises. Scientists trying to analyze these complex motions say that the conventional steady-state aerodynamics, the approach that works for airplane wings, is insufficient.

Scientists agree that considerable progress has been made in aviation technology. When it comes to micro-flapping flight, however, they admit that they are still at the same stage that the Wright Brothers were in 1903.

Above: A micro-flight system modeled on insect wings.
Right: The Wright Brothers’ first plane.

Fruit flies actually make use of more than one aerodynamic feature. For example, when they flap their wings, they leave behind them a complicated whirlpool of air currents, rather like the wake of a ship. As the wing reverses direction, it passes back through this churning air, recovering some of the energy lost beforehand. The muscles that allow the fruit fly's only 2.5 mm wings to flap 200 times a second are considered as the most powerful of all insects' flight muscles.69

Many other details in addition to their wings, the flies' sharp eyes, their small rear wings (known as halteres) aiding balance, and the sensors organizing the timing of the flapping motion, all testify to the perfection of their design.

Large, flat wings give insects a flight advantage, but also a higher risk of the wings being damaged. They need to be foldable, therefore—yet the wings’ size makes folding difficult. Bees solve this problem by means of a series of hooks known as the hamuli, which join the front and hind wings together in flight. When the bee lands, the hooks separate, and the wings can be comfortably folded away.

Flies have been using these aerodynamic rules for millions of years. That today's scientists, equipped with the most advanced technology, can't fully account for insects' flying techniques is one of the evident proofs of creation. For those who are able to think, God reveals the incomparable nature of His wisdom and knowledge in the tiny fly. In one verse, He reveals:

Humanity! An example has been made, so listen to it carefully. Those whom you call upon besides God are not even able to create a single fly, even if they were to join together to do it. And if a fly steals something from them, they cannot get it back.
How feeble are both the seeker and the sought!
(Qur'an, 22: 73)

 

Footnotes

61 "Kusursuz Ucus Makineleri" (Flawless Flying Machines), Reader's Digest, trans.: Ruhsar Kansu, Bilim ve Teknik (Science and Technology), TUBITAK Publishings, no. 136, March 1979, p. 21

62 "Biomimicry," Your Planet Earth; http://www.yourplanetearth.org/terms/details.php3?term=Biomimicry

63 For further information see Harun Yahya's Darwinism Refuted, Goodword Books, New Delhi, 2003.

64 "Biyonik, Dogayı Kopya Etmektir," (Bionics Copies Nature) Science et Vie, trans.: Dr.Hanaslı Gur, Bilim ve Teknik (Science and Technology), TUBITAK Publishings, July 1985, pp. 19-20.

65 Necmi Kara, "Yakıtsız Ucus" (Fuelless Flight), Bilim ve Teknik (Science and Technology), TUBITAK Publishings; http://www.biltek.tubitak.gov.tr/dergi/98/ocak/yakitsiz.html

66 "Biyonik, Dogayı Kopya Etmektir" (Bionics Copies Nature), Science et Vie, trans.: Dr.Hanaslı Gur, Bilim ve Teknik (Science and Technology), TUBITAK Publishings, July 1985, p. 19.

67 Michael Dickinson, "Solving the Mystery of Insect Flight," Scientific American, June 2001.

68 Ibid.

69 Ibid.

 

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