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Engineers Look to Dolphins for Improved Sonar

on March 24, 2007
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[email protected]: “Better sonar through dolphin teeth”
http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070319/full/070319-2.html

It’s another case of science turning to God’s design for inspiration: a study published in Bioinspiration & Biomimetics (which focuses on such natural inspiration) describes how engineers may be taking a cue from dolphins in devising improved sonar systems. Dolphins navigate using sonar-sonar that “outperforms any man-made system, particularly in shallow water, “ according to the article.

Based on the theorized but as yet unverified idea that dolphins use their teeth to improve sonar navigation, Dobbins modeled dolphin jaws to investigate the “endfire array” concept.

Enter Peter Dobbins, an engineer for Britain’s SEA Group. Based on the theorized but as yet unverified idea that dolphins use their teeth to improve sonar navigation, Dobbins modeled dolphin jaws to investigate the “endfire array” concept:

The models showed that the endfire-array pattern performs better at close range than the ‘broadside’ pattern often used in man-made sonar systems. In a broadside array, the sound
travels at right angles to the jaw-from directly underneath, for example. Whereas the broadside array loses the ability to determine direction of sound closer than 10 centimetres from the source, the endfire array can still do so.

Of course, since scientists have not proven that dolphins actually use their teeth in navigation, Dobbins’ model only “may be” taking a cue from nature. Despite this unanswered question, the article points out:

Dobbins agrees that further work is necessary to determine whether his models accurately reflect dolphin sonar. But regardless of how that debate turns out, he says, the results can already be used to improve man-made systems.

As humans, we can be thankful for not only God’s incredible designs, which have inspired numerous engineering advances, but also for the logical minds God gave us that allow us to use science to investigate the world around us.


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