Few animals can compete with a peregrine falcon for pure speed. There is evidence that, when diving, the falcon can reach speeds upward of 200 mph (320 kph). That the birds can achieve this by pulling their wings back into a low-drag profile is impressive, but the control they exert to do so is even more astounding. The placement and acuity of a falcon’s eyes would require tilting its head roughly 40 degrees if diving straight down on its prey. Such asymmetry increases their drag by more than 50% and creates a torque that yaws the bird. Instead, as seen in the video above, the falcon keeps its head straight and flies in a spiral-like dive, allowing it to maintain sight contact with its target and maximizing its speed despite the extended dive. (Video credit: BBC; research credit: V. A. Tucker)
The algorithm that won an Oscar
Hollywood likes a good explosion. Now, with the help of an open source algorithm called Wavelet Turbulence, filmmakers can digitally create pyrotechnics that were formerly time-consuming and difficult to control.
UCSB’s Theodore Kim (along with three collaborators) picked up the Academy Award in Technical Achievement for Wavelet Turbulence. The algorithm uses a theory of turbulence developed in the 1940s by Russian mathematician Andrey Kolmogorov.
So far, it has been used in over 26 major hollywood productions including Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, Hugo, and Super 8 (pictured above).