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Ocean Envy

Scientists look toward marine creatures to improve watercraft designs

5:46pm, August 29, 2004

Ship propellers have served humankind well for more than a century, enabling vessels to travel in relatively straight lines over great distances. But modern engineers want to design vessels for more nuanced tasks. They want vehicles that can hover at the ocean floor and instantaneously respond to the current to hold their positions. They want vessels than can quickly maneuver around small objects or in tight spaces. They want machines that can operate in the harsh turbulence that would destroy existing craft. And they want all these capabilities in an energy-efficient package. In all, they want to reinvent the penguin—or perhaps the whale or a fish.

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