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New model reveals how huddling penguins share heat fairly
Date:11/16/2012

San Diego, Calif., Nov. 16 Penguins that face the bitter cold and icy winds of Antarctica often huddle together in large groups for warmth during storms. Mathematicians at the University of California, Merced created a model of penguin huddles that assumes each penguin aims solely to minimize its own heat loss. Surprisingly, the model reveals that such self-centered behavior results in an equitable sharing of heat. The results are published in the online journal PLOS ONE and the researchers will discuss their findings at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society's (APS) Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD), held Nov. 18 20 in San Diego, Calif.

Penguins aren't a typical study subject for Francois Blanchette, an applied mathematician at UC Merced who focuses on fluid dynamics. However, after seeing penguin huddles in the movie "The March of the Penguins" Blanchette realized that the important factors that shaped the huddle, including wind and heat flow, fell within his area of expertise.

Blanchette and his fellow researchers, Arnold Kim and Aaron Waters, modeled huddles packed so tightly that only the penguins on the outside could move. Each penguin in the huddle generated heat that the wind blew away. By considering such factors as the number of penguins in the huddle and the strength and turbulence of the wind, the model calculated which penguin on the outside of the huddle was coldest. The coldest penguin moved to the most sheltered spot available, usually relocating from a windward to a leeward position, and then the heat distribution around the huddle was recalculated. Repeated iterations showed the huddle gradually elongating and creeping downwind over time.

At first the model assumed perfectly steady wind patterns and identical penguins, but produced huddle shapes that were longer and thinner than those observed in nature. When the researchers added uncertainty, which could represent irregular wind eddies and na
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Contact: Charles Blue
dfdmedia@aps.org
301-209-3088
American Institute of Physics
Source:Eurekalert

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