Brave bird wears goggles and flies through a laser for science

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To the brave bird willing to wear goggles and fly through a laser sheet: we salute you. Thanks to you, we know a little more about how you and your kind fly.

When birds lift off, their wings generate tiny, circular currents of air called wingtip vortices. Think of them like tiny tornadoes under the wings. The movement of the vortices can tell us a lot about how flapping wings help birds fly, but we weren’t able to measure the currents until now. In a study published today in the journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics, researchers at Stanford University used four cameras to record a small parrotlet flying through the laser. (Sadly, no word on the bird’s name.) This let them visualize the wingtip vortices — and they found that the actual way…

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