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Pterosaur Aerodynamics at GWU
January 7, 2014 11:11 AM   Subscribe

A series of blog posts by George Washington University engineering students on the aerodynamics of pterosaur flight.

Pterosaur Quadrupedal Launch

Weight Estimations for Q. Northropi & Other Pterosaurs (Q. northropi being the gigantic Quetzalcoatlus northropi)

Pterosaur wings and flight capabilities

The Wagner effect
posted by brundlefly (12 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

Oh, good - the local expert on flying dinosaurs is still recovering from a case of throat-spiders, so we've been looking for just this kind of information.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:24 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]

I've not yet read the blog posts, but how good can they really be when a control-f of each post comes up empty for "pterodynamics"?
posted by Sternmeyer at 11:28 AM on January 7 [6 favorites]

If it helps, Sternmeyer, I've added that as a tag on this post.
posted by brundlefly at 11:32 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]

posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 11:42 AM on January 7 [11 favorites]

posted by The Bellman at 11:48 AM on January 7

a case of throat-spiders?

posted by blue_beetle at 11:49 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]

Mostly a great read. There's this surprising bit of "science by a journalist" in the Weight Estimation link:
In a mathematical methodology called slicing, a model of the unknown pterosaur is sliced up into chunks. Each chunk is assigned its own density based upon observations of density in other pterosaurs and similar animals. The mass is then calculated from the volume multiplied by the density.
Also called "sampling". Also called "piecewise approximation". Also called "finite element analysis". In fact, I doubt it's ever called "slicing" by mathematicians. I hope the grad students don't think they've invented a new technique, with this freshman Intro-to-Calculus standard method.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:37 PM on January 7

However, the evidence that Quetzalcoatlus northropi (common name: the northern greater JEESUZ CHRIST WHAT IS THAT THING RUNAAAAAGH!) may have been flightless (weight problems, plus its temporal distance from nearest-known flying cousins (160My) being twice that of current flightless birds (Wow! That long?!) is fascinating. FTFA, referencing Henderson 2009:
There is a notable gap between the weight of Q. northropi and the other "giant" pterosaurs, like Tupuxuara. Tupuxuara weighs in at 22.8 kg, nearly half the weight of the largest flying modern birds at 41 kg. This gap mirrors the gap between the weights of modern flightless birds and their flying counterparts. It is also of note that it took approximately 80 million years for birds to go from flying to flightless, while the Q. northropi would have had 160 million years to develop flightlessness.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:42 PM on January 7

The Part 3 of 3 What is a Pterosaur? link yielded a curious silhouette for "longisquama", which absolutely required a GIS.

Proof positive that these so-called "terrible lizards" predated hominids by millions of years: anything related to us would have invented fancy hats and hunted them to extinction.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:03 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]

Quetzalcoatlus northropi

posted by Herodios at 1:15 PM on January 7 [3 favorites]

Slicing is actually what that method is called in paelobiology, as far as I know. I was introduced to the term in my forensic statistics class in 2002, and I know it goes back at least to the 90s as a term in the literature.

Also, these are awesome. Looking at vampire bats as a model for 4 limbed takeoff is a good one, and I'm surprised I hadn't seen it done so elegantly before...
posted by strixus at 6:25 PM on January 7

Ah, OK, strixus. Stretch to call it a mathematical methodology then (it's a biological methodology), but whatever.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:40 AM on January 8

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