we discover from our research
has the potential to impact aerodynamic
engineering, leading to more efficient
transportation. We are spreading our
wings to reach new heights.”
Ken Dial -
it was only a matter of time until Ken Dial got jealous. Dial, an internationally
respected biologist who specializes in bird evolution and the mechanics
of flight, is also, not surprisingly, a pilot. “Every time I get
in the cockpit I think, 'What does a bird see and how does it negotiate
this?'” Dial has been the keynote speaker at NASA conferences and
meetings of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots in large part because
of his studies on how birds change the shape of their wings in flight
and the differences between small and large bird flight behavior.
turns out little animals are more powerful,” he says. It’s
like comparing the aerial abilities of a 747 to a fighter jet. “I
study the engines of birds,” he says.
other part of Dial’s research, focusing on the evolution of flight,
has thrust him into the national spotlight and has forced a reevaluation
of the topic in textbooks. In studying the locomotor development of chukars,
small ground-dwelling partridges, Dial, along with his son and another
young man, discovered that small, flightless birds use their wings for
additional traction, like a spoiler on the back of a car.
a fresh outlook, it breaks the chains,” Dial says of their discovery,
which goes against the two traditional theories that surmise animals discovered
flight from gliding or that they ran along the ground flapping feathered
limbs and eventually took off.