No, the wavy lines behind the desert locust in the picture above aren’t computer-generated: They’re smoke, and the disruption in the lines is the product not of any physics modeling, but of the flapping of the locust’s wings. Why simulate when you can see — and study — the real thing?
Discover’s Visual Science blog tips us off to this stunning motion study video of a locust in flight, courtesy of researcher Adrian Thomas. The smoke is made by heating baby oil, and the video, shot at 1000 frames per second, is able to capture every riffle produced by the locust’s flapping.
While it provides a hypnotic visual, Thomas’ research has a practical aim: By studying the dynamics of insects in flight, he and other researchers hope to improve the efficiency of micro-air-vehicles, which is still miles behind that of regular old insects.