Superman cannot be explained. He soars faster than a speeding bullet- and without aid. Iron Man can be described as an engineer. He built a high-tech suit to rocket him sky high. Batman however, uses neither high-tech suits or the power of radiation to fly. Batman has mastered biomimetics.
Biomimetics is the art of mimicking biology to design new technologies. The term was coined during the 1950s when scientists starting studying nerves in biological systems. Bruce Wayne was the first to apply the study of biomimetics towards fighting crime. How did he do so?
Wayne created a patagium for himself.
The patagium is the thin membrane of skin stretching from the fore legs to the hind legs on the Colugo pictured below Batman. This skin unfolds from the Colugo’s body when gliding, and just like Batman’s, folds away when on the ground.
However, Batman has yet to totally outsmart biology. The Colugo actually has more than just one patagium. It also has a propatagium (found between its neck and legs), a dactylopotagium (found in between its digits) and a uropotagium (the potagium between its two hindlegs).
Evolution has given the Colugo the best potagium possible for flight. Not only is the Colugo’s entire body a giant airfoil, the fur on the patagium even contributes to the great aerodynamics. The patagium is covered with shorter fur than the rest of the body, reducing the total amount of aerodynamic drag. Batman, however, has avoided this problem altogether by not including fur on his outfit.
The patagium is truly one of evolution’s great designs. It has allowed animals- burdened by gravity- to take to the sky. And now, the study of biomimetics is allowing humans to defy the force of gravity as well.
When asked about the design of his cape, Wayne commented, “I tried to capture the genius of nature in every aspect. The shape and thickness were crucial- we had to get the aerodynamics just right. And as for the fur, we chose not to include it. Fur just isn’t in style anymore.”
- Patagium, FlyingSquirrels.com (http://www.flyingsquirrels.com/Anatomy/patagium.html)
- Batman, DCComics.com (http://www.dccomics.com/sites/batman/)