New Wind Tunnel Studies How Birds and Bats Fly

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Despite a $4.7 billion endowment, Brown University has received $756.8 million in grants since 2017, including $1 million to create a wind tunnel for birds.

The $1 million from the National Science Foundation since 2017 went to create a wind tunnel for aerodynamic experiments and testing the flight of birds, bats, and other flying and gliding animals.

It was built even though the university’s Breuer Lab had a smaller wind tunnel. The university says the second, larger tunnel was needed to work with a more diverse group of animals and that it allows researchers to use sophisticated experimental techniques to study biomechanics, animal flight, and bio-inspired robotics.

“It will enable advanced measurement of kinematics and dynamics of animal fight, muscle function, echolocation, sensing and control during flight,” says a Brown University article touting the new tunnel.

Built in 2019, the tunnel can operate at speeds from 5 to 120 mph. The test section is enclosed by a BioSafety Level 2 enclosure with HEPA-filtered air exhaust, so researchers can test wild-caught birds and bats without fear of transmission of any infectious agents.

Why were working and middle-class U.S. taxpayers compelled to fund these experiments at the wealthy Ivy League college? If this research was so important, why didn’t they fund it with their own money?

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