A researcher has claimed that the passenger airplanes, to which we are very familiar to, have also evolved over the years since its invention like the evolution of flying birds.
Both biology and technology are two different aspects of science and may appear completely unrelated but as far as process of development of airplanes are concerned, they may sound similar to biological evolution of birds.
Adrian Bejan, a mechanical engineer at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, led the study and tried to apply the laws of physics to evolution of aircrafts too.
For Bejan, evolution is not just a biological phenomenon as it is no more confined to the living organism.
Bejan, in his paper, revealed how the Constructal Law of Physics led to the evolution of Wright brothers’ aircrafts to today’s massive Boeing 787s.
The theory of Constructal law was developed by Bejan in the 1990s.
According to the law, the shape and structure of all flow systems, whether living or dead, evolve in such a way as to provide progressively easier access to the flow of currents, like air, water, blood or electricity, within them.
While in the case of flying animals that ‘flow’ is their movement around the world, in airplanes it is the movement of people. The engineer explains the rules of aerodynamics forced airplanes to suffice the demand of the people in exactly the same way as birds.
Calling evolution a physical phenomenon, Bejan said that changes in animals too driven by physical laws. Evolution of birds depends on aerodynamics.
“I want to persuade people that evolution, which is the change in body shape over time, recognizes no distinction between the two camps of biology and physics,” Bejan said.
Robert Blake, who studies comparative physiology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, has a different opinion about Bejan’s argument that deciphers similarities between technological development and biological evolution.
“Biological evolution is not directed, there is no goal, no conscious decision as there is in technology, where things are done for a reason. That lack of planning in biology is what sets the two worlds apart,” Blake said.
Blake said that Bejan’s idea of technological evolution is like artificial selection.
“They flap infrequently enough that they’re like a plane. But when you compare it to a hummingbird, it all breaks down. You get ludicrous results, Blake said.
Blake says, “These kinds of ideas are good to share, even though I don’t agree with them. They get people thinking.”
Another geophysicist Axel Kleidon, from Max Planck Institute in Jena (Germany), said that interesting ideas in Bejan’s work lose significance after being linked to his constructal law.
“It’s quite vague. If you want to apply constructal law to a new area, you don’t know what to do,” he said.
The study was published in the Journal of Applied Physics on Wednesday.