Get smart curated videos delivered to your inbox every week.      
The Kid Should See This

Birds gliding through helium bubbles reveal an aerodynamic trick

A cloud of tiny helium-filled soap bubbles hovers in the air. When a barn owl glides through them, the bubbles are illuminated and recorded. The experiment is repeated with a tawny owl and a northern goshawk. With this setup, researchers can see, track, and analyze the vortices in each bird’s wake.

Watch birds of prey as they glide through helium bubbles and learn more about the aerodynamics of flight. From Nature:

Researchers in London have discovered a new way in which birds use their tail to provide lift and so reduce drag while gliding. They tracked the swirling motion of more than 20,000 helium-filled soap bubbles as they were displaced by birds of prey in flight. Their findings could provide a new way to improve the efficiency of small gliding aircraft.

owl flying through helium bubbles
wingtip vortices
More from the Royal Veterinary College in London:

Professor Richard Bomphrey, co-author of the paper, said: “Our understanding of birds in flight was used to generate the very earliest aircraft designs. Since then, aeronautical engineering has led to aircraft that are larger and faster – where the viscosity of air becomes less important – and birds have been left trailing in their wake. Now, though, as our attention turns back to smaller and more efficient vehicles, it seems that birds might have a new relevance to future aeronautics.”

computer mapping the bubles
wingtip vortices
File under biomimicry, fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, flying, and vortices. Then watch these related videos next:
• Wake vortex in the fog as an airplane lands
Wingtip vortices made visible with ribbons of white smoke
• A vortex of bubbles twirls pufferfish
• The physics of why birds fly in V-formation
How to make an Air Surfing Foam Walkalong Glider

via @sohkamyung.

This Webby award-winning video collection exists to help teachers, librarians, and families spark kid wonder and curiosity. TKSST features smarter, more meaningful content than what's usually served up by YouTube's algorithms, and amplifies the creators who make that content.

Curated, kid-friendly, independently-published. Support this mission by becoming a sustaining member today.

🌈 Watch these videos next...

Can squids fly?

Rion Nakaya

Wheeko – A snake robot that could explore Mars

Rion Nakaya

Hummingbirds fly, shake, and drink in slow motion

Rion Nakaya

Why do spinning rings & spinning disks have different paths?

Rion Nakaya

Weevils, katydids, an assassin bug, & other insects fly in slow-mo

Rion Nakaya

Why do geese fly in V formation?

Rion Nakaya

MIT’s electric cheetah-bot runs offleash

Rion Nakaya

Christian Moullec flies his microlight with the birds

Rion Nakaya

Paper airplane aerodynamics explained by a world record-setting designer

Rion Nakaya