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Insect Flight: From Newton’s law to Neurons
Biophysics, Computational Modeling, table-top experiments
- Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
- Center for Applied Mathematics (CAM)
- Cornell Center for Materials Research (CCMR)
- Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics (LASSP)
We are fascinated with the physics of living organisms, with a focus on understanding insect flight. How does an insect fly, why does it fly so well, and how can we infer its ‘thoughts’ from its flight dynamics? The movement of an insect is not only dictated by the laws of physics, but also by its response to its own movement.
We have been seeking mechanistic explanations of the complex movement of insect flight. Starting from the Navier-Stokes equations governing the unsteady aerodynamics of flapping flight, we worked to build a theoretical framework for interpreting and predicting the functions of an insect’s internal machinery for flight. In this approach, the physics of flight informs us about the internal computing scheme for a specific behavior.
Our most recent work is to make connections to the developments in neural science. We build physical models for quantitative analyses of flight reflexes, and relate our finding to the underlying neural feedback circuitries.
Insect flight: 3D free flight
Dragonfly flight: righting reflex
Flies: testing our conjecture on the role of fly’s b1 muscle on flight stability using genetically modified flies.
James Melfi Jr.
Z. Jane Wang, Insect Flight: From Newton's Law to Neurons , Annual Review of Condensed Matter Physics 2016
S. Chang, Z. J. Wang, Predicting fruit fly's sensing rate with insect flight simulations, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 1314738111 (2014)
A. J. Bergou, L. Ristroph, J. Guckenheimer, I. Cohen, Z. J. Wang, Fruit Flies Modulate Passive Wing Pitching to Generate In-Flight Turns, Physical Review Letters 104,148101 (2010)
U. Pesavento, Z. Jane Wang, Flapping Wing Flight Can Save Aerodynamic Power Compared to Steady Flight, Physical Review Letters 103,118102 (2009)
G. Berman, and Z. J. Wang, Energy-minimizing kinematics in hovering insect flight, Journal of Fluid Mechanics 582, 153-168 (2007)
Sheng Xu and Z. Jane Wang, An Immersed Interface Method for Simulating the Interaction of a Fluid with Moving Boundaries, Journal of Computational Physics 201, 454-493 (2006)
A. Andersen, U. Pesavento, and Z. Jane Wang, Unsteady aerodynamics of fluttering and tumbling plates, Journal of Fluid Mechanics 541, 65-90 (2005)
Z. Jane Wang, Dissecting Insect Flight, Annu. Rev. Fluid Mech. 2005.37, 183-210 (2005)
Z. Jane Wang, Two Dimensional Mechanism for Insect Hovering, Physical Review Letters 85.10, 2216-2219 (2000)