Airplanes Evolve by Intelligent Design, Therefore …

We’re really going out on a limb here, because it’s difficult to predict what the Discovery Institute might do next, but we’ve seen enough of their antics and gyrations that we’re likely to be right about this.

Look what we just found at PhysOrg: Law of physics governs airplane evolution. A few excerpts will show why we’re fairly confident that, even as we speak, the Discoveroids are cooking up a post to use this as evidence for their bizarre theory of intelligent design. PhysOrg says, with a bit of bold font added by us for emphasis:

Researchers believe they now know why the supersonic trans-Atlantic Concorde aircraft went the way of the dodo — it hit an evolutionary cul-de-sac.

In a new study, Adrian Bejan, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Duke University, shows that a law of physics he penned more than two decades ago helps explain the evolution of passenger airplanes from the small, propeller-driven DC-3s of yore to today’s behemoth Boeing 787s. … The Concorde, alas, was too far from the curve of these good designs, Bejan says. The paper appears online July 22, in the Journal of Applied Physics.

Relax, dear reader. We’re not here for the Concorde. You’ll soon understand. This is a link to Bejan’s paper: The evolution of airplanes. You can read it online without a subscription. The abstract alone will excite the Discoveroids:

The prevailing view is that we cannot witness biological evolution because it occurred on a time scale immensely greater than our lifetime. Here, we show that we can witness evolution in our lifetime by watching the evolution of the flying human-and-machine species: the airplane. We document this evolution, and we also predict it based on a physics principle: the constructal law. We show that the airplanes must obey theoretical allometric rules that unite them with the birds and other animals. For example, the larger airplanes are faster, more efficient as vehicles, and have greater range. The engine mass is proportional to the body size: this scaling is analogous to animal design, where the mass of the motive organs (muscle, heart, lung) is proportional to the body size. Large or small, airplanes exhibit a proportionality between wing span and fuselage length, and between fuel load and body size. The animal-design counterparts of these features are evident. The view that emerges is that the evolution phenomenon is broader than biological evolution. The evolution of technology, river basins, and animal design is one phenomenon, and it belongs in physics.

We’re not imagining things. You know the Discoveroids are leaping around, rubbing their hands with glee. Even now, one of them is feverishly working on a post that will declare, as does our title: Airplanes evolve by intelligent design. Therefore …

Let’s return to PhysOrg:

In the case of commercial aircraft, designs have evolved to allow more people and goods to flow across the face of the Earth. Constructal law has also dictated the main design features needed for aircraft to succeed; the engine mass has remained proportional to the body size, the wing size has been tied to the fuselage length, and the fuel load has grown in step with the total weight.

“The same design features can be seen in any large land animal,” said Bejan. “Larger animals have longer lifespans and travel farther distances, just as passenger airplanes have been designed to do. For example, the ratio of the engine to aircraft size is analogous to the ratio of a large animal’s total body size to its heart, lungs and muscles.”

There is joy in Seattle. PhysOrg continues:

To apply his theories to airplane design, Bejan teamed up with Jordan Charles, a researcher and development engineer, and Sylvie Lorente, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Toulouse, to mine the historical databases of successful commercial aircraft. As they plotted thousands of statistics including year of introduction, size, cruising speed, engine weight, fuel weight, range, wingspan and fuselage length, many patterns began to emerge. But two in particular stood out.

In one chart, a clear curve tracks the increasing size of commercial airplanes through nearly a century of aviation. As time moves on, new commercial airliners come in all sizes but the biggest are joined by even bigger models. In another chart, the line that best tracks the relationship of body mass to airplane speeds is nearly identical to mass and speed statistics from various mammals, lizards, birds, insects and more. Evolutionary constraints found in nature, in other words, can be seen at work in the airline industry.

We can hear Casey swooning. Oooooooh! Oooooooooh! Here’s more:

There was, however, one outlier on the chart — the Concorde.

“The Concorde was too far off from the ratios that evolution has produced in passenger jets,” explained Bejan, who points out that the doomed aircraft had limited passenger capacity, a low mass-to-velocity ratio, an off-the-charts fuselage-to-wingspan ratio, massive engines and poor fuel economy. “It would have had to adhere to the constructal design rules to succeed.”

Tough luck for the Concorde. But that’s not our concern here, so that’s where we’ll quit our excerpts. What caused us to write about this wasn’t nostalgia for the Concorde. Rather, it’s that Bejan’s paper is obviously ripe for quote-mining and for making wild leaps of illogic that point to the Discoveroids’ magical designer in the sky.

This is much too good for them to pass up. Even though we’re jumping out ahead and predicting their behavior, they won’t be able to resist. Come on, Casey. This one’s for you!

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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15 responses to “Airplanes Evolve by Intelligent Design, Therefore …

  1. Of course, the thing is, we know aircraft have designers–we can see them, and without working ourselves up into some kind of hallucinatory frenzy first.

    We don’t know that humans had a Designer. But don’t waste your time talking about that with creationists; they’ll just circle their wagons and their reasoning.

  2. What a load of garbage. Concorde used ancient military engines that needed afterburners and made too much noise both from its engines and the shock waves. The “dead end” was the physical reality of the speed of sound in air.

  3. I read the paper – it’s full of BS. It says the fuselages are round to minimize drag – that is complete BS. They are round because of structural considerations and cheapness of manufacture. The lowest drag shape is that of a sailplane whose actual section is that of an eier or egg curve. He ignores the research into flying bodies and has got Concord all wrong, Somebody who doesn’t seem to know too much about the reality of aircraft design.

  4. Is Bejan a sleeper cell? lol

    Adrian Bejan is an American professor who developed the constructal law of design and evolution in nature. He is J. A. Jones Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke University.

    The constructal law was stated by Adrian Bejan in 1996 as follows: “For a finite-size system to persist in time (to live), it must evolve in such a way that it provides easier access to the imposed currents that flow through it.”

    The definition of Constructal law offers little incite into the nature of “imposing currents” or that of what they are allegedly flowing through.

    How did this get published?

  5. “How did this get published?”
    The same way questionable candidates get PhD’s: the readers on the committee either don’t care or have an incentive to give subpar scholarship a pass.

  6. The whole truth

    There are many things wrong with what Bejan said but for now I’ll just respond to this: “Larger animals have longer lifespans and travel farther distances…”

    Giant Tortoises are much smaller than elephants, rhinos, and hippos, yet they have longer life spans. Sea Turtles are much smaller than elephants, rhinos, and hippos, yet they travel much farther. Arctic Terns are WAY smaller than elephants, rhinos, and hippos, yet they travel much farther. Some species of parrots live longer than elephants, rhinos, hippos, bison, water buffalo, giraffes, manatees, whale sharks, and many other much larger animals.

  7. The whole truth

    Wikipedia has another page that pertains to “constructal law”:

  8. Since The Whole Truth has made the point I was going to, I’ll have to go a bit off topic. When I lived in London, whenever Concorde flew over (around 5pm), I, and many others, always looked up and wondered just how beautiful it was.

  9. David Evans

    Let’s just add that if there is a “behemoth” in current airline service it’s the A380, not the 787. The 787 has comparable range to the A380 despite being less than half the weight. It is designed to use smaller airports – a factor which doesn’t feature in Bejan’s laws and helps to explain the persistence of much smaller aircraft.

  10. @EricL: come on, you know by now that kicking in open doors on this site is not fun. No, the trick is to see how far the IDiots from Seattle can go with this non-point – and show how they still fail. Here it is:

    “the evolution phenomenon is broader than biological evolution”
    Read: Darwinian evolution. If Casey’s drool happens to negatively influence his sight – and I agree with SC that that is totally possible – he is going to defend theistic evolution, ie defending Darwin.
    I just can’t wait.

  11. Ceteris Paribus

    A covert janitor contact at the DI reliably reported that Casey’s waste basket was recently found overflowing with Jack Chick bible tracts which had been folded into a myriad of paper airplane designs.

    The report was cut short because the janitor received an emergency call to change the batteries in the toilet cam of the DI executive bathroom.

  12. Bejan’s “Constructal Law” is neither well founded, nor well formulated. As a professor of engineering, he really should know better than to foist such loose imprecision and conceptual flexibility on the world. In doing so, he’s playing right into the eager hands of all manner of pseudo- and anti-science merchants, including the Discorrhoids. As with QM, his “law” will no doubt be seized upon to “explain” everything from life and consciousness to squeaky boots.

  13. docbill1351

    I remember taking Olivia down to Heathrow to watch Concorde take off. The roar of the engines completely drowned out Olivia’s squeals of delight as she hopped up and down with her hands clasped over her ears. Then we got ice cream.

  14. Et tu, docbill1351?

  15. Well, our Curmudgeon correctly predicted that the Discoveroids would pick this one up–but I’ll leave it to others to determine if their response is in line with Curmy’s prophesy: Good Grief. No, Airplanes Don’t “Evolve” by Natural Law.