Owls, it would seem, are the ninjas of the skies: operating under the cloak of darkness, they approach their prey in utter silence, swooping in without warning, weaving around or through obstacles that would confuse or block the average predator.
Justin Jaworski, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics, is working to understand the interlocking mysteries of the owl’s hearing abilities and the physics of its silent flight. He hopes the research will one day influence the design of various vehicles and technologies, from submarines to aircraft to wind turbines.
"Owls are remarkable predators," says Jaworski. "They hunt in almost complete darkness, using only their ears to weave around and capture their prey. A great grey owl can go through a couple of inches of ice, can hear through that, to get its prey."
Jaworski and partners from University of Cambridge presented their work at the 2013 meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Fluid Dynamics, held in late November in Pittsburgh, PA, which was subsequently covered by a host of press outlets around the world including The Huffington Post, The London Times, and Phys.Org (see list below for a sampling of the coverage.)
- Official Web site: APS Division of Fluid Dynamics 2013
- APS News Release: The Secrets of Owls’ Near Noiseless Wings
- Lehigh Faculty Profile: Justin Jaworski
- The Huffington Post: Owl Wings Research Could Lead To Stealthier Aircraft, Engineers Say
- The Daily Mail (UK): Scientists solve the mystery of owls' silent wings (and hope the findings will help make quieter wind turbines)
- Phys.Org: The secrets of owls' near noiseless wings
- Science World Report: Scientists Explain Owls' Mysterious, Silent Flight
- Nature World News: Understanding Owl's Noiseless Flight Could Help Design Near-Silent Aircrafts, Researchers Say
- Engineering and Technology Magazine: Owl wing design holds lessons for stealth technology
- University Herald: Noiseless Owl Wings Could Make The World A Quieter Place
- Z News (India): Soon, 'quiet' aircraft inspired by owls' near noiseless wings