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Hey it's me Destin, welcome back to Smarter Every Day. So before we start the
butterfly deep dive, the one question I get more than anything else here on
Smarter Every Day, is what's your educational background. So, I figured I'd tell you.
I got my Bachelors degree from the University of Alabama in mechanical engineering,
and I got my Masters degree at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in aerospace engineering, specificially
in rocket propulsion. Anyway, so now that's out of the way, the cool thing about this video for me is
that both of my university alma maters are working together to unravel the mystery
of butterfly scales, and I think that's pretty awesome.
Where'd he go? ... Anyway, so what they're gonna do is here at the ATOM lab, the Autonomous Tracking and
Optical Measurements lab there's a bunch of cameras setup and we're gonna track butterflies
and we're gonna try to determine if they are more efficient with or without their scales.
It's pretty cool. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go joust myself.
If you're new to Smarter Every Day, a deep dive is a clickable play list
that you can check out at any point in this video and research one specific topic in great detail.
For example, in the past we did a deep dive with helicopters.
Look at that, I'm still powering this thing and it fell out of the sky.
Why is that? It's because micro air vehicles are historically
inefficient flyers, which is interesting because butterflies are super
duper efficient. You think about it. These things can migrate thousands
and thousands of miles. Dr Amy Lang at the University of Alabama has
been researching the aerodynamics of butterfly flight, and Dr Nathan Slegers
at the University of Alabama in Huntsville has a 3D facility for tracking micro air vehicles.
So is there a way we can combine the two? We'll take the aerodynamic research from Dr Lang
and the ability to track a 3D vehicle by Dr Slegers
and see if we can baseline the efficiency for a butterfly and then make modifications to the
butterfly in hopes of increasing the efficiency of a micro air vehicle.
If we have a butterfly wing, we've marked it with a retro reflector marker on it, we can
reconstruct where it is. We have cameras all over the walls over there and if they
know exactly where those markers are, you can combine all that data and figure out a 3D
position of the butterfly. What does this mean? This means you can fly this butterfly
in 3D space, wherever
he wants to go, and then you can analyze the data after the fact.
Now that's very important if you're trying to figure out efficiencies of flight. Think about this.
You can fly a butterfly with scales on his wing and without scales on his wing
and you could figure out if he's more efficient or less efficient
because he has scales. - Micro air vehicles, the major problem is batteries run down.
People can build roboflies like they do at Harvard,
but they're powered by car batteries with tethers. I'm looking at ways
with Dr Lang to improve the efficiency. So if you can increase the efficiency
10%, that's the same thing as improving your batteries 10%.
- Gotcha. - And you start tying up, you start integrating all these efficiencies in every part
of the UAV and eventually we'll get there. (Destin) Think back to our last episode when we
looked at the structure of butterfly scales with a scanning electron microscope.
Any structural or mechanical engineer can tell you that these scales are designed to resist bending in one particular
direction. So does that mean that they're actually designed to capture more air
with each wing beat? Dr Lang and Dr Slegers are actually testing this theory
with real data. They put reflectors on the butterflies and fly them in the ATOM lab
and record the data of the flight. Then they're able to virtually play back the flights in slow motion.
You can do really cool things like measure the wing beats, you can measure the position,
the velocity, you can get the kinetic and the potential energy at any one point along the flight
to get an average of how hard that butterfly is having to work to move across the room.
In the end they only got two good data sets. Basically the same butterfly that flew with
and without scales. So what do you think the data showed after they removed the scales from the
butterfly wings? - So their flapping frequency increased
by about 5-10%. To achieve the same
increase in energy. By increased energy we meant a combined
speed and change in height. - OK, so what does this mean
for science? - So it meant that they were say 10% less efficient.
They had to try 10% harder by flapping harder
to get the same amount of motion out. I'm looking at ways
with Dr Lang to improve the efficiency. So if you can increase the efficiency 10%
that's the same thing as improving your batteries 10%. - OK and so what's the
application? That we're gonna start putting scales on micro air vehicles?
- That's exactly what it means. - It's because of research that's going right now at UAH right?
- Yes. - [laugh] Thanks. So if you want to, check out the deep dive
and go back through all the stuff we've learned on butterflies together. I mean we've covered caterpillar
locomotion, complicated cocoon designs, how they gather nutrients in order to mate, how they
lay eggs, we even covered the incredible optomechanical design associated with their
wing scales, some pretty cool stuff. There are still several things that we don't
know about butterflies. For example, scientists do not know
how metamorphosis came to be. It's a pretty crazy thing if you think about it. I mean this creature
that has the ability to eat and sustain itself, destroys almost everything
about his old ways and is reborn to live life in a totally new and
exciting way. But before he enjoys this new more productive and fruitful life,
he first has to die to himself, and then allow himself
to be remade.
OK there's one other thing that I think you deserve to know.
The first sponsored video on Smarter Every Day was the butterfly lifecycle video
and your response to that video was so big
that Audible have decided to sponsor Smarter Every Day for six months.
And that doesn't sound like a big deal, like in the grand scheme of things, but I want you to know
that I really appreciate that, because that was six months of uncertainty
in my job. I was furloughed at one point, the government shut down at another point.
But I had stability for my family and I had peace of mind because
you guys were downloading free audio books. So it is with great joy
that I would recommend to you
audible.com/smarter. Go get your free audio book, you can do whatever you want, there's
tons of titles. If you don't like it you can return it and get a different one.
But, I just want to say thank you. Thank you to you,
and thank you to audible.com for sponsoring Smarter Every Day, it means a lot.
Anyway, I'm Destin. You can check out the deep dive if you're interested in that.
You can also get your free audio book. Anyway, I'm Destin, you're getting Smarter Every Day.
Have a good one.
[ Captions by Andrew Jackson ] captionsbyandrew.wordpress.com
Captioning in different languages welcome. Please contact Destin if you can help.