Slingshot Surprise

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Two BU researchers shooting rubber bands make an unexpected discovery

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 a College of Engineering assistant professor and Oratis 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.