A parrot named Obi-Wan Kenobi is powering some fascinating flight research at Stanford University. Dapper in his wee flight goggles, the parrot soars through suspended particles lit by a laser beam that’s projected through a cylindrical lens. The laser isn't dangerous, but it is bright—hence the adorable 3-D–printed goggles crafted for Obi-Wan by his scientist handlers.
Their research delves into the inconsistent results provided by the three mathematical models that predict the lift produced by animals in flight. The Stanford team tried to design a way to verify (or refute) the models’ accuracy. The suspended particles allowed the scientists to observe the effect of Obi-Wan’s wings on the air around them in three dimensions.
As seen in the video above, 12 high-speed cameras captured the one-meter flight. The team’s results showed all of the models failed to predict Obi-Wan’s lift.