Boxfish Paradox

August 4, 2022
2 min read

Have you ever heard of the Boxfish Swimming Paradox? Well, I hadn’t until Mercedes-Benz, in 2005, released their concept car the Bionic. This car was based on the design of the Boxfish1, which is not a sleek or streamlined looking fish, but looks exactly like its name, that is, like a box. Now, don’t let its shape fool you. Studies show that the drag coefficient of a Boxfish is 0.06 whereas a penguin, for example, has a drag coefficient of 0.19. The boxfish even excels in stability in turbulent waters.

Preliminary studies done by Mercedes-Benz indicated that the Bionic car would have decreased drag, great rigidity, low weight, and increased fuel efficiency. However, have you ever noticed a ton of “Boxfish-shaped” vehicles on the highways? No, there are not. Here is where the Boxfish swimming paradox comes in.

Another paper written in 2015 shows that the shape of the Boxfish didn’t decrease drag, and it actually made it more unstable. The Bionic design never entered production. So, after all the money and research poured into this research project, it proved that the Boxfish shouldn’t be doing what it’s in fact doing everyday.

Before I continue, I just want to say that this is why as Christians it is always important to yield to the wisdom of God rather than the wisdom of man. Even though it may seem foolish at the moment, God’s wisdom, even in creation, will always prevail.

These findings instigated another, improved research study2 in which they ran algorithm-driven simulations with high performance computers (a branch of fluid mechanics called computational fluid dynamics) and flow tank experiments with highly realistic 3-D printed models (based on laser scan measurements of real boxfish).

What did they find?  Well, it was the combination of the box shape and the seemingly insignificant tiny fins of the box fish that gave it its amazing manoeuvrability and stability2, making it ideal for the Boxfish to navigate its maze-like reef surroundings, but not so ideal for going down the Deerfoot.

God used so many unique design features for such a small, seemingly insignificant creature. You can have even more confidence in God’s careful design for you, when Psalm 139 says that God’s thoughts of you “outnumber the grains of sand.”

  1. Buehler, J. A Real Drag, Slate Magazine, Slate, 11 March 2015, Accessed 30 March 2022.
  2. Van Wassenbergh, S., et al., Boxfish swimming paradox resolved: forces by the flow of water around the body promote manoeuvrability, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, The Royal Society Publishing, 6 Feb 2015, Accessed 30 March 30, 2022.



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