Moving at the air-water interface

24 January 2013
Elie Raphael
It is generally believed that in order to generate waves, a small object (like an insect) moving at the air-water surface must exceed the minimum wave speed (about 23 centimeters per second). We show that this result is only valid for a rectilinear uniform motion, an assumption often overlooked in the literature. In the case of a steady circular motion (a situation of particular importance for the study of whirligig beetles), we demonstrate that no such velocity threshold exists and that even at small velocities a finite wave drag is experienced by the object. This wave drag originates from the emission of a spiral-like wave pattern. The results presented should be important for a better understanding of the propulsion of water-walking insects. For example, it would be very interesting to know if whirligig beetles can take advantage of such spirals for echolocation purposes.
  • Industrial and Applied Mathematics Seminar