What do fish have in common with NASCAR?

Good question! First, a disclaimer: I’m not a NASCAR fan. But this is still cool: when fish swim in schools, the kinetic energy (the energy associated with movement of an object) of the fish in front of them helps fish swim more efficiently and keep going forward. In NASCAR (and in other forms of racing, such as bicycle racing), you’ll see racers “drafting” or “slipstreaming” off each other to increase their speed. It’s all about aerodynamics (…and yes, aerodynamics apply in water, too!).

This is just one of many things in nature that parallel the everyday things in our life. It’s also a great example of how we can learn from animal species: by studying the fish and applying the same aerodynamic principles, researchers are evaluating ways to make wind farms more efficient. In their current form, the “wake” generated by the spinning of one wind turbine’s blades can actually interfere with the turbines behind it, leading to wasted/loss wind energy. If we apply nature’s drafting technology to the turbines, we waste less energy and make the process more efficient.

 

 

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