A subset of [tag:fluid-dynamics] concerning primarily forces such as lift and drag generated on bodies as they move through gasses or as gasses move through the body (typically air).

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146
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9answers
23k views

What really allows airplanes to fly?

What aerodynamic effects actually contribute to producing the lift on an airplane? I know there's a common belief that lift comes from the Bernoulli effect, where air moving over the wings is at ...
35
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3answers
3k views

What is going on in front of and behind a fan?

Why is it that when you drop paper behind a fan, it drops, and is not blown/sucked into the fan, whereas if you drop paper in front of a fan, it is blown away?
31
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6answers
16k views

Why is jumping into water from high altitude fatal?

If I jump from an airplane straight positioned upright into the ocean, why is it the same as jumping straight on the ground? Water is a liquid as opposed to the ground, so I would expect that by ...
28
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13answers
2k views

What does a wing do that an engine can't?

This isn't a question of how a wing works -- vortex flow, Bernoulli's principle, all of that jazz. Instead, it's a question of why we need a wing at all. A wing produces lift, but why is that ...
24
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2answers
13k views

How can airplanes fly upside down?

I've read many times, including here on this very site that the commonly known explanation of flight is wrong, and that airplanes can fly because the shape of their wings deflects air down. This makes ...
21
votes
1answer
600 views

Causes of hexagonal shape of Saturn's jet stream

NASA has just shown a more detailed picture of the hexagonal vortex/storm on Saturn: http://www.ibtimes.com/nasa-releases-images-saturns-hexagon-mega-storm-may-have-been-swirling-centuries-1496218 ...
18
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4answers
305 views

Why is paper (or any tailless) airplane pitch stable?

To clarify my question further I'll use a practical example. Here is the simplest paper plane design I could think of - it is a rectangular thick drawing paper with a weight attached at the middle of ...
15
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5answers
4k views

Why isn't jumping from a high altitude fatal?

After seeing this answer claiming that displacing matter "In a very short time", "no matter whether the matter is solid, liquid, or gas" (even though he concludes that falling from a high altitude is ...
15
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2answers
4k views

Why can't supersonic planes “just fly higher” to go faster while maintaining cost?

First post to this site, and I've got at most a high school background in physics - I really appreciate any answer, but I may not be able to follow you if you're too advanced. I suppose this goes for ...
14
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1answer
5k views

Did Felix Baumgartner produce a sonic boom during his jump?

I really got to thinking about this. The speed of sound is measured at 761.2 MPH at sea level. But how does this number change as air density decreases? The lack of air density is what allowed his ...
13
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4answers
1k views

Why is exhaling more forceful than inhaling?

By blowing at pencil, a piece of paper, or another object up to fifty centimeters away, I can cause it to move away from me significantly. But I can't move an object toward myself by inhaling sharply ...
13
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5answers
911 views

Is flying really easier on smaller scales?

In the book Playing with Planets, the author makes the following argument, pertinent to flying robots of the future: As it is, an important law of physics says that smaller organisms fly much more ...
13
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4answers
1k views

Helicopter in an Elevator

You buy one of those remote control toy helicopters. You bring it into an elevator. The elevator goes up. Does the helicopter hit the floor or does the floor of the elevator push the air up into the ...
13
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3answers
7k views

What causes an aircraft to roll when rudder is applied

When continuous rudder is applied in a typical light aircraft during straight and level flight at "normal" flying speeds and altitudes, the primary effect is that the aircraft will yaw to the left - ...
12
votes
3answers
4k views

Does a wing in a potential flow have lift?

I have a hard time understanding whether or not a wing placed in a potential flow, assuming there is no viscosity and no friction with the wing, will produce a lift. I've seen several contradictory ...
12
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1answer
954 views

Do modern Formula One cars produce enough down-force to drive upside-down?

For example, if they were driving at top speed through a long tunnel, could they transition to and stay on the ceiling?
12
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4answers
1k views

How to sail downwind faster than the wind?

Recently a group set a record for sailing a wind-powered land vehicle directly down wind, and a speed faster than wind speed. Wikipedia has a page talking about it, but it doesn't explain exactly how ...
11
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3answers
2k views

How do eagles fly slowly for a long time?

Eagles fly slowly for a long time. Many other species fly faster and move their wings faster. But eagles keep their wings steady, and move only their tail. How do they move slowly in the air, ...
11
votes
8answers
28k views

Why does the air flow faster over the top of an airfoil?

I understand the common explanation of lift, which describes the airflow over the top of the wing as moving faster than the air below the wing. However, I don't quite understand why the air moves ...
11
votes
1answer
186 views

Equation derivation for skipping rocks

oWhy can rocks skip over water? For instance, if you conduct an experiment where you drop both rocks from the same height, but give one considerable acceleration in the x direction, one will fall in ...
10
votes
1answer
3k views

Why exactly does a boomerang return back to the thrower?

I was always intrigued by the phenomena that govern the returning back of a boomerang to the thrower. Even if it is dependent on various factors such as velocity, aerodynamics, wind resistance and ...
10
votes
2answers
547 views

Energy from man-made tornadoes

Peter Thiel just paid $300,000 to Canadian inventor Louis Michaud who is working to construct useful "man-made tornadoes" or "atmospheric vortex engines" which could be components of future power ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

Does it make sense to open one window all the way when the other window is much smaller?

I can't wrap my head around this idea because I don't know much about air flows. Say we have this imaginary apartment with two windows, one of which is two times smaller than the other: Will the ...
9
votes
2answers
891 views

Why do co-rotating vortices coalesce, but not counter-rotating ones?

In studying the aerodynamics of modern aircraft equipped with high-lift devices, I have discovered that quite a number of distinct trailing vortices are present in the immediate wake of an airplane in ...
9
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2answers
3k views

What is the optimal design for a paper airplane? (Or, at least, how can you approach it?)

Having only really known two designs for paper airplanes since my days as a child, one which flies about eight feet and another which flies about ten feet, I have always wondered how people manage to ...
8
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2answers
2k views

How much more efficient is a road bike than a mountain bike? [closed]

What would be a good estimate on the difference of efficiency between a road bike and a mountain bike? A number of links cite all the usual reasons: thinner tires, better aerodynamics... But I'm ...
8
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4answers
4k views

Why is 55-60 MPH optimal for gas mileage of a passenger car?

My driver's education teacher back in high school said 55 MPH is optimal for gas mileage of a passenger car. Just last week, I read an article in a magazine saying 60 MPH is optimal. These numbers are ...
8
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2answers
1k views

Why aren't airplanes like golf balls?

Ok this is a silly question but here it goes Although it is good to have a laminar flow of the air around the object for low drag but the laminar flow is prone the phenomena called separation (sounds ...
8
votes
1answer
267 views

Could the phenomenon of vortex bursting be exploited to reduce wake turbulence?

One of the classic stories in the annals of aerospace engineering is the development (and subsequent redesign) of the F-18 and its Leading Edge Extensions (LEX) due to fatigue problems, problems that ...
8
votes
1answer
403 views

NASCAR drafting at Daytona

This year, the racetrack at Daytona has been repaved. The track was always faster than other tracks NASCAR raced at and several cars in a "train" were faster than single cars or smaller trains. This ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views

Could some design of a propeller be used in both air and water?

Propellers in water are smaller in diameter. They also move more slowly. On the other hand, aircraft propellers are larger in diameter, have narrower blades and operate at very high speeds. An ...
7
votes
2answers
259 views

How should I throttle my rocket to reach highest altitude? [closed]

"Real world" problem. Suppose we want to launch a rocket equipped with an engine which can be throttled as we prefer. Suppose also that the amount of fuel burnt per time is directly proportional ...
7
votes
5answers
182 views

Why is a beam reach the fastest point of sail on modern sailboats?

I've heard that a beam reach (perpendicular to the wind) is the fastest point of sail on modern sailboats, but I haven't heard a satisfying explanation of the physics behind the claim. Triangular ...
7
votes
1answer
146 views

Helicopter, Tricopter, Quadccopter - what's really happening here? Are there generalized advantages on a small scale?

There have been, it seems, a proliferation of quad-copters commercially available. Amazon seriously tried to use them for deliveries. (Search Drone on their website.) The NFL uses one for cameras. ...
7
votes
1answer
170 views

Why Are Normal Shock Waves Unstable in a Converging Channel?

While learning about shock waves in an introductory Gas Dynamics course, it was revealed that normal shocks are unstable if formed in a converging channel. Even if the local conditions ostensibly ...
6
votes
5answers
1k views

Why do blades of windturbine propellers as comp. to propellers of ships cover very different areas?

This is a thought I asked myself often, but never did real efforts to get an answer. Barsmonsters question about number of fans of a wind turbine made me think of it again Why do blades of aircraft ...
6
votes
6answers
3k views

Turning an Airplane. What actually causes the circular motion in a banked (roll) turn?

Basically I'm wondering if this is correct. Which essentially says that you need a torque to get the nose of the craft to turn and that this is provided by the rear tail surfaces. After trying to ...
6
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1answer
2k views

What is a Physically Accurate Explanation for the Kutta Condition?

Countless arguments between highly intelligent people have been waged (on this very site in fact) as to exactly how lift can be explained in an experimentally and mathematically rigorous way. Taking ...
6
votes
1answer
318 views

Why do wind power plants have just 3 blades? [duplicate]

Why do wind power plants have just 3 blades? It seems that adding more blades would increase the area that interacts with the wind and gather more energy. (Image from Wikipedia.)
6
votes
1answer
877 views

Why is it hard to breathe when cycling against the wind?

Sometimes when I bicycle against hard wind, I find it difficult to breathe. Others I have discussed it with have also noticed this effect. A possible related phenomenon that I heard from an ...
6
votes
2answers
81 views

Stratospheric ship

Let's assume that we build a giant steel hull in a shape of cube with open top (2km long edge) and lift it to the top of stratosphere and then pump air out of it. Would it float on the outer layer of ...
5
votes
2answers
3k views

how does a helicopter get forward thrust?

Just passed a helicopter on my way to work. We have read in some detail how an airplane gets forward thrust and lift by deflecting air. How does a helicopter with horizontal fans achieve that ?
5
votes
3answers
2k views

Benefits of rear spoiler in cars

What would be the benefits of rear spoilers in cars, like this one:
5
votes
1answer
192 views

Why does deflating baloon spurting through the air make circular motion? [duplicate]

When you inflate a balloon and then let it go again, it will fly through the air in an unpredictable motion. My kids (1 and 3 year old) love watching this. At some point my oldest asked how it worked ...
5
votes
2answers
539 views

How does train back draft work

Quoting platforms and stations : Fast trains can create a vacuum called a ‘back draft’ that can blow you over or suck you under a train. How does that work ? I thought that the volume of air ...
5
votes
4answers
3k views

Why do aircraft inner wings lose lift when turning?

first question here, so please be gentle! I'm reading an entry-level engineering course book and am currently up to discussion of aircraft design. There's one particular statement that is unclear to ...
5
votes
2answers
561 views

How can you calculate air resistances at different speeds?

I've read that at 50mph air resistance to an average car is the equivalent of driving through water and at 80mph it's the equivalent of driving through oil. I can't find any references online to ...
5
votes
2answers
361 views

Aerodynamics of two objects closely following each other

On bicycles.se a question came up about whether one cyclist drafting another causes the lead cyclist to be slowed down. A contributor suggested that the opposite might be the case, that the leading ...
5
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3answers
152 views

Why does it seem as if big vehicles “attract” mine when I drive close to them?

When I drive a car at high speed and when I am near to another big car (like a van, or transport vehicle) I feel an attraction to or something push me toward the other big car. What's the physics in ...
5
votes
2answers
209 views

Number of blades in a fan

How does the number of blades in a fan affect the flux of air? I read that 3 blades are the best option but some companies uses more blades because there's a misconception among people that more ...