WIT Press

The Physical Structure, Optical Mechanics And Aesthetics Of The Peacock Tail Feathers


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WIT Press


S. C. Burgess


The physical structure, optical mechanics and aesthetics of the peacock tail feathers S.C. Burgess Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Bristol, University Walk, Bristol, BS8 ITR, UK Abstract The peacock tail feathers have no flight or thermal function but have the sole purpose of providing an attractive display. The peacock tail produces colours by thin-film interference. There is a very high level of optimum design in the peacock feathers including optimum layer thickness, multi layers, precision co- ordination and dark background colour. This paper analyses the structure and beauty of the peacock tail. 1 Introduction Aesthetic beauty in appearance is produced by attributes such as patterns, brightness, variety, curves, blending or any combination of such attributes. Beauty is so important in engineering design that there is a whole subject called aesthetics which defines how beauty can be added to man-made products’. An object can have two types of beauty: inherent beauty and added beauty. Inherent beauty is a beauty that exists as a bi-product of mechanical design. In contrast, added beauty is a type of beauty which has the sole purpose of providing a beautiful display. These two types of beauty can be seen in man-made products like buildings and bridges. An example of inherent beauty is found in the shape of a suspension bridge. A suspension bridge has a curved cable structure because this is an efficient way of supporting a roadway. However, the end result can be a very elegant and beautiful design. An example of added beauty can be seen in the decoration of a classical column. The classical column shown in Fig. 1 (a) has an elaborate form with intricate carvings and grooves. There is no mechanical reason for a classical column to be any more than a plain cylinder, like the one shown in Fig. 1 (b), yet the designers embellish the column with elaborate patterns just for the sake of adding beauty.