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Workshop / Seminar

School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering Seminar Series presented by Dr. David Hu

About the event

Mechanics of the elephant trunk and skin

Presented by
Dr. David Hu, Mechanical Engineering and Biology, Georgia Tech

An elephant eats 200 kg per day, or the equivalent of 200 grams every minute.  How does an elephant feed so quickly?  We present experiments with African elephants at the Atlanta Zoo and dissections of elephant trunks at the Smithsonian Institution.  We demonstrate three ways that elephants can feed quickly:  sucking like a vacuum cleaner, squeezing food items together, and wrapping their trunk around objects to get a better grip.   We use mathematical models to rationalize the forces and geometries required by the trunk to perform these feats.  We will also talk about our Ig Nobel prize winning work on cube-shaped poo of wombats.

Dr. David Hu is a mechanical engineer who studies the interactions of animals with water.  He has discovered how dogs shake dry, how insects walk on water, and how eyelashes protect the eyes from drying.  Originally from Rockville, Maryland, he earned degrees in mathematics and mechanical engineering from M.I.T., and is now Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Biology and Adjunct Professor of Physics at Georgia Tech.  He is a recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER award for young scientists, the Ig Nobel Prize in Physics, and the Pineapple Science Prize (the Ig Nobel of China). His work has been featured in The Economist, The New York Times, Saturday Night Live, and Highlights for Children.   He is the author of the book “How to walk on water and climb up walls,” published by Princeton University Press.  He lives with his wife and two children in Atlanta, Georgia.