experimental fluid dynamics

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In this video, researcher Leif Ristroph and his colleagues have used a clever way to simulate flapping flight, not by actuating their fliers but by oscillating the flow. The flow is driven by a speaker, which causes the air above it to move up and down. Using straws to simulate the honeycomb flow conditioners often used in wind tunnels helps smooth flow. The end result is a great table-top set-up for testing and refining miniature flier designs. The best fliers stay aloft thanks to asymmetry in the streamwise direction; when the air moves upward, the flier catches the air, maximizing drag so that it is carried upward. When the flow reverses, however, the shape of the flier is more streamlined, so the drag is reduced, helping the flier stay aloft. (Video credit: Science Friday/Leif Ristroph et al.)