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Book review: On the Wing, by David Alexander

Quite a variety of animals, even snakes, have acquired some capacity for gliding flight, but only four major groups have developed powered flight: insects, pterosaurs, birds, and bats. Alexander presents an accessible account of current thinking about how these very different kinds of animal acquired the ability to fly.

The first three chapters describe the basic requirements for flight, which are essentially the same for all flying animals and also for aircraft. They all need lift, to stop them falling to the ground. Lift is generated when the wings move forward through the air, and this requires the application of force, which is called thrust. In animals the thrust is provided by flapping. So powered flight is flapping flight. [More]

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