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12 December 2013 1:00 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
The iconic 125-year-old Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton near San Jose, California, is facing the threat of closure...
Recent results from the Curiosity Mars rover have helped scientists formulate a plan for the next phase of its mission...
A new, remarkably powerful drug that cripples the hepatitis C virus (HCV) came to market last week, but it sells for $...
In pretoothbrush populations, gumlines would often be marred by a thick, visible crust of calcium phosphate, food...
Evolutionary biologists have long studied how the Mexican tetra, a drab fish that lives in rivers and creeks but has...
Victorian astronomers spent countless hours laboriously charting the positions of stars in the sky. Such sky mapping,...
In an ambitious project to study 1000 years of sickness and health, researchers are excavating the graveyard of the now...
Stefan Behnisch has won awards for designing science labs and other buildings that are smart, sustainable, and...
- 12 December 2013 1:00 pm , Vol. 342 , #6164
- About Us
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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