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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Video: Why Insect Wings Don't Fracture
23 August 2012 12:20 pm
How can an insect's gossamer wings survive the stresses of flexing, twisting, bending, and flapping millions of times? Tests similar to those used to analyze aircraft parts reveal that the secret lies in the wings’ veins. Researchers mounted sections from the rear wings of lab-raised desert locusts—Schistocerca gregaria, an insect pest famed for migrations lasting several days and covering several thousand kilometers—into tiny frames and stretched the wings until they cracked (see video). Unsurprisingly, the membrane between veins, which ranges from a mere 1.7 to 3.7 micrometers thick and is mainly composed of cross-linked proteins, had little resistance to the propagation of cracks. But when cracks reached a wing vein, their growth typically slowed or stopped. Overall, veins boosted a wing’s resistance to crack growth by about 50%, the researchers report online this week in PLoS ONE. Although scientists have previously proposed that the veins might act as barriers to crack growth, the new tests are the first to support the notion. The new findings could help engineers to better design light yet strong and durable wings for small flying vehicles that could be used for reconnaissance, for example, or operated in environments too dangerous for people and inaccessible to ground vehicles.
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