MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology

How Mosquitoes Fly in the Rain

Dr. David Hu
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biology
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, Georgia


Lesson vetted and approved by CPALMS

In this lesson, we learn how insects can fly in the rain. The objective is to calculate the impact forces of raindrops on flying mosquitoes. Students will gain experience with using Newton's laws, gathering data from videos and graphs, and most importantly, the utility of making approximations. No calculus will be used in this lesson, but familiarity with torque and force balances is suggested. No calculators will be needed, but students should have pencil and paper to make estimations and, if possible, copies of the graphs provided with the lesson. Between lessons, students are recommended to discuss the assignments with their neighbors.

David Hu is a mechanical engineer who studies the locomotion of animals. He is particularly interested in how animals use specialized surfaces such as water-repellent fur and snakeskin. David has studied how snakes slither, how insects walk on water, and how small insects fly in the rain. Videos and images used in our work may be found on my website: http://www.me.gatech.edu/hu/

This site, Smithsonian.com’s “Surprising Science” blog, provides a very comprehensive discussion of the research done by Professor Hu and his lab.
http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2012/06/how-do-mosquitoes-fly-in-the-rain/

This is the site of Video Tracker, a free video analysis and modeling tool built on the Open Source Physics (OSP) Java framework. It is designed to be used in physics education and is recommended by Professor Hu.
http://www.cabrillo.edu/~dbrown/tracker/

Here you will find “10 Cool Facts You Didn’t Know about Mosquitoes” on the About.com website.
http://insects.about.com/od/flies/a/10-facts-about-mosquitoes.htm

 

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This Lesson is in the following clusters: Newtonian Physics