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March 4, 2009

Dolphin Design

If humans are clumsy and slow in the water, at least we’re good at stealing performance-enhancing ideas from other animals. In this case, from dolphins, who can swim up to 33 miles per hour. Georgia engineer Ted Ciamillo has invented the Lunocet, a 2.5-pound monofin made of carbon fiber and fiberglass. Its shape and angle are precisely modeled on a dolphin’s tail — and it’s making Michael Phelps look like a sea slug. Swimmers have already hit about eight miles per hour wearing the fin, which is twice as fast as Phelps at a sprint. Marine biologist Frank Fish (yes, you read that right) provided Ciamillo with data from CAT scans of dolphins’ tails that he used to design his fins. And as you could probably guess, the Lunocet ain’t cheap: they go for about $1,800 each.