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The following article is Open access

A geometric theory of swimming: Purcell's swimmer and its symmetrized cousin


Published 13 June 2008 Published under licence by IOP Publishing Ltd
, , Citation J E Avron and O Raz 2008 New J. Phys. 10 063016



We develop a qualitative geometric approach to swimming at low Reynolds numbers which avoids solving differential equations and uses instead landscape figures describing the swimming and dissipation. This approach gives complete information about swimmers that swim on a line without rotations and gives the main qualitative features of general swimmers that can also rotate. We illustrate this approach for a symmetric version of Purcell's swimmer, which we solve by elementary analytical means within slender body theory. We then apply the theory to derive the basic qualitative properties of Purcell's swimmer.

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