Slingshot Surprise

How shooting rubber bands led to an unexpected discovery

Rubber Bands in Flight

This tiny rubber band has some mighty lessons hiding in it.

Posted by Boston University on Thursday, January 24, 2019

Strumming guitar strings and shooting rubber bands—when paired with a high-speed video camera—can become grounds for fundamental new discoveries, at least according to James Bird and Alexandros Oratis. The two Boston University mechanical engineers (Bird is an assistant professor and Oratis is a postdoctoral researcher) recorded high-speed footage of themselves plucking a guitar and launching rubber bands off their thumbs. To their surprise, they discovered a never-before-seen propulsion phenomenon that explains how rubber bands launch forward. But the findings do more than explain the physics of a rubber band fight; they could inform the design of new drug delivery systems that use DNA and proteins like a slingshot.


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