At his lab in NYU’s Polytechnic Institute in Downtown Brooklyn, Professor Maurizio Porfiri and others developed a six-inch robotic fish that imitates a leader fish—the fish all other fish follow. Though it will take “a few years” before the technology is out of the lab and employed in the field, it could be used to guide schools away from oil spills. Research began three years ago as part of a project of the National Science Foundation about “modeling the collective behavior of animals,” Porfiri tells us. Like a natural leader, the biomimetic fish moves its tail at a faster rate.
A Park Slope resident and Italian native, Porfiri moved to the borough a few years ago. “You know Paul Auster?” he asks us. (Not personally.) The professor had completed his PhD at Virginia Tech and was looking for faculty jobs right around the time Brooklyn Follies came out. “I’m a big Paul Auster fan,” he says. So when he was offered the post at Poly, he grabbed it. “I got very excited about Brooklyn.”