Saturday, November 1, 2003

Kansas man's study of flight leads to work as drangonfly expert: After Roy J. Beckemeyer "retired from Boeing in 1997, he invested more time in the study of bugs. He walked regularly along Cowskin Creek in Pawnee Prairie Park, carrying a huge dragonfly net, accompanied by his dragonfly-hunting Labrador retriever, Joe.

"One day he borrowed a high-speed camera and filmed dragonflies in flight. Conventional film takes a picture of a moving image at 30 frames per second. The camera he borrowed from Wichita State University's National Institute for Aviation Research takes 1,000 frames per second; it's used to create the ultimate slow-motion film showing what happens to crash test dummies during tests.

"Roy made films and studied them in his Riverside home. And he sat back and smiled. The films showed what he'd already learned from the research of others.

"Most bugs have four wings, which operate together as one - 'in phase' with each other, as aeronautical engineers say. Dragonflies have four wings, which operate 'out of phase' with each other, if the dragonfly so chooses. … Out-of-phase wings create an incredible flying machine that turns on a dime, climbs or dives like lightning, yaws or rolls with almost unbelievable dexterity."

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