You can read the abstract of that paper here. An abstract is the blurb that comes at the beginning of every scientific paper that summarizes the work in a nutshell, or a seed shell (sorry bad joke, I know!). Normally the abstract is open source and available to all. I thought I’d provide commentary on that abstract in a fuller prose. Here’s my expanded version of that abstract:
“There are a huge variety of methods of dispersal of plant seeds, from microscopic to very large. Fungus’ disperse their ‘seeds’ via spores, and pollen in flowering plants are microscopically small. Compare that with large seeds of fruits which are distributed by falling or by animals eating them and releasing the seeds, somewhere far and wide, in their feaces. Somewhere in the middle you have seed dispersal through adaptive flight mechanisms… seeds with wings! The common dandelion uses a bundle of bristles which enhances it’s drag and keep it aloft to be carried by the wind, which is effective “over formidable distances” i.e. ‘far’ (but its catchy to write “formidable distances”!). BUT… nobody knows how on Earth this happens (or anywhere else, for that matter). Here, for the first time, a vortex is visibly detected above a dandelion seed in flight (in it’s ‘wake’). Air passes through the bristles causing the vortex to emerge as a separated entity above the bristles themselves. The vortex left in the wake, being separated, serves to stabilize flight; unlike a solid disc whose wake is normally ‘attached’ to the body-in-flight. Two factors affect this separated vortex formation: 1) size/radius of the disc of bristles, 2) density of bristles (which they call ‘porosity’) i.e. ability of air to flow through it. These two are precisely ‘tuned’ to maximize the amount of seed that can be carried (“aerodynamic loading”) whilst using the least material (i.e. using bristles and not a solid disc). This new discovery is evidence of a new class of fluid dynamic behavior and could help explain the methods that living things utilize to carry seeds and other biologically relevant material across stupendously FORMIDABLE distances.”
This work was (almost certainly) inspired by Inspector Gadget, but I somewhat doubt that he knew how his flying-thingy worked. I think someone should tell him.
(The dandelion photo is from the paper in Nature here, and can be found on a google search! Inspector gadget from here, from DHX media)