Shape, skin and movement
In their quest for perfection, however, designers sometimes assume that nature has a grand plan, which is not the case. Animals that can run, fly or swim fast are each ‘streamlined’ in their own way. Their shape, their skin, and their movement all have a part to play. Shark skin, for instance, is not smooth but covered in minute ‘teeth’, over which water flows more easily. Some birds of prey, meanwhile, adjust their shape with immense precision so that they can swoop down on their prey at great speed.
Even if ‘divine perfection’ does not exist, learning from nature can still be very useful when it comes to creating aerodynamic designs. Designers then often study the functions of certain traits acquired through evolution. Scientists call the emulation of nature ‘biomimicry’. Swimsuits, for instance, can be based on shark skin.
Before you can learn from nature, you have to study it carefully. During the nineteenth century, the camera made it possible to capture the movement of animals and humans millisecond by millisecond for the very first time. Important pioneers of ‘chronophotography’, as the technique was called, included the English photographer Eadweard Muybridge and the French physiologist Étienne Jules-Marey.