How Are Birds and Bullet Trains the Same?
When a group of Japanese engineers was asked to redesign and upgrade the country’s bullet trains they looked to nature and found an amazing solution for their biggest problem: the noise.
To accomplish this, they studied a bird called the kingfisher and the way it hunts. The kingfisher’s long beak, which helps the bird avoid making splashes in the water that might frighten off potential prey, inspired changes that saw trains being faster with less electricity needed to power them.
High-speed trains sacrifice silence for speed and the result can be unavoidably loud machines. Particularly problematical is an effect they create when entering tunnels: a powerful shockwave known as “tunnel boom” that could be strong enough to do structural damage to tunnels. The root of the problem was the flat nose of the trains.
The Japanese engineers copied the way kingfisher birds use their distinct beaks to dive into the water with a minimal splash to streamline their trains and in turn solve their tunnel boom issues.