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Oblique Digital Image Gallery

Feather

Feathers have an exquisite beauty, tenderness, and functionality that has captured the attention and imagination of people for many centuries. Almost every culture and religion has found a niche for the feather that often penetrates to the core foundation. These delicate works of nature have been utilized as personal adornments, ritual objects, decorative artifacts, and tools by almost every society since the beginning of civilization.

Feathers are specialized epidermal growths, formed by papillae, that are composed of a fibrous protein named keratin (about 90 percent), lipids, and pigments that give them their beautiful colors. Keratin is an ideal material for feathers because it is lightweight and flexible, yet strong enough to form a structure that can withstand the rigors of flight. Feathers are also the ideal framework for composing wings---they are lightweight, yet capable of providing a relatively solid surface to achieve the lift necessary to launch a bird into the air. When considering materials that would be suitable to fabricate wings, it becomes obvious that feathers are far superior to other materials because of their flexibility, durability, and size to weight ratio.

Contributing Authors

Cynthia D. Kelly, Thomas J. Fellers and Michael W. Davidson - National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, 1800 East Paul Dirac Dr., The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, 32310.


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