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The Lie: Evolution


Insects—Defying The Laws of Aerodynamics?

by Anonymous

It has often been said that, according to the laws of aerodynamics, insects shouldn’t be able to fly. But of course they do—brilliantly. Actually, that only highlighted our ignorance of aerodynamics. Research over the past few years is revealing how insects do manage to fly in ways which put the achievements and maneuverability of our most advanced aircraft to shame.

Conventional analysis showed that insects were generating only about one-half to one-third of the lift needed to carry their weight. However, ingenious experiments have now shown unexpected patterns of vortex flow along the edges of insect wings.

These generate the extra lift needed because the vortex (a spiralling tube-like pattern of airflow like a mini-tornado) stays ‘stuck’ to the leading edge of the wing for long enough. 1 At this point, no one knows how or why this particular vortex phenomenon occurs, but researchers have been able to see it in a robot model of a moth’s wing inside a wind tunnel.

One reason why previous models failed to detect how insects could fly is that they used fixed wings. However, insect wings have a very complex motion, rotating and changing the camber. It required sophisticated programming to make the ‘robot insect’ flap properly. This demonstrates how sophisticated the (created) design of actual insect flight must be.


  1. ‘On a wing and a vortex’, New Scientist156(2103):24–27, 11 October 1997.