Videos: Forces on an Airplane

Another, slightly more technical, look at Cayley’s Four Forces of Flight!

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Cayley’s Four Forces

Rocket Men: Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky

Wiki TsiolkovskyKonstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky was born in Russia in 1857. The fifth of eighteen children, Tsiolkovsky first imagined a place without gravity when he was 8. It was a small hydrogen-filled ballon that rose to the ceiling each time he let it go that excited his imagination. Tsiolkovsky’s mother taught him to read and write. Before he entered his teens, his life took a turn that would forever alter his path.

As Tsiolkovsky wrote later, ” Age of 10 or 11, the beginning of winter, I rode a toboggan. Caught a cold. Fell ill, was delirious. They though I’d die but I got better, but became very deaf and deafness wouldn’t go. It tormented me very much.” The reality of a profound hearing loss a the time and in the area that Tsiolkovsky lived meant that his opportunities for education were extremely limited. He needed to depend upon himself to set goals and seek knowledge on his own.   Continue reading

Tsiolkovsky: Sixteen Stages of Space Exploration

Wiki TsiolkovskyRussian Rocketman Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky, truly a “Citizen of the Universe,” introduced these Sixteen Stages of Space Exploration in 1926. He believed that these incremental steps would bring man into space and allow him to thrive:

  1. Design of rocket-propelled airplanes with wings.
  2. Progressively increasing the speeds and altitudes reached with these airplanes.   Continue reading

Ueli Gegenschatz: Extreme Wingsuit Flying

Ueli Gegenschatz takes everything we know about aerodynamics and puts it all into a series of brilliant extreme sports experiences in the pursuit of his dream of human flight. You can view this video and think about lift, drag, thrust, and weight, but chances are you’ll be too busy wishing you were there with him!

Says Gegenschatz: “I believe this is probably the closest possibility to come to the dream of being able to fly.”

Did Jon Lester Cheat?

Baseball in GloveThere are claims that Boston pitcher Jon Lester cheated in the Series opener against St. Louis in Boston on Wednesday night. These claims are based upon an observable blob of something – I think I’d rather not know precisely what – in his glove. The substance in his glove does not necessarily equate to cheating. It’s what Lester did or did not do with the substance that counts.

A major league pitch moves through the air at speeds of 90 mph or more. As the ball moves forward, it is subject to aerodynamic forces known as the Magnus Force – a variation of the Bernoulli effect. In the case of the Magnus Force, it is the spinning of the ball and the raised surface of the stitches that create a whirlpool of rotating air around the ball. The moving air exerts pressure – think Bernoulli effect – and the ball moves in the direction of least resistance. A perfect curve ball curves right at the plate because of the Magnus Force.  Continue reading

Early Aerodynamicists

Looking back on Andre-Jacque Garnerin’s parachute ‘drop‘ of 1797, we can easily say that his parachute had to work. He, of course, had no way of knowing his parachute would work or that it would slow him sufficiently for a safe landing. He also had no experience with making a safe landing. That didn’t stop him. In fact, that didn’t stop any of the early aerodynamic innovators.

Garnerin

True to the process of scientific discovery, Garnerin’s parachute experiment would not have been possible without the work of those who came before him – most notably the Montgolfier Brothers.    Continue reading

Baseball Science

Baseball is all about fluid dynamics – actually aerodynamics – since the fluid is air.

Aerios: concerning the air.Dynamics: force.The Ancient Greeks coined the term Baseballaerodynamics for their study of forces and the resulting motion of objects through air. Today, all the attention a pitcher pays to the placement of his fingers in relation to the seams is done to take advantage of the aerodynamic properties of a ball in flight. Because the seams are the only raised portion of the ball, a baseball made to spin as it moves alternates its smooth and raised surfaces. The cowhide – cut in two peanut-shapes – is smooth.The 216 stitches used to hold the cowhide together, a raised saddle pattern, or double horseshoes, on the ball. These smooth and raised surfaces are the cause of the ball’s performance as it responds to the effects of Lift, Thrust, Drag, and Gravity. Continue reading

Smeaton’s Coefficient

John Smeaton (1724-1792) had a long and illustrious career as a civil an mechanical engineer. One byproduct of his work is something known as “Smeaton’s Coefficient.” This coefficient was derived from his work – not calculated by Smeaton himself. Unfortunately, the coefficient became of vital importance to the Lillienfeld,  the Wright Brothers, and other pioneers of aviation around the globe.

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John Smeaton

SmeatonJohn Smeaton (1725-1792) is the British engineer who published the 1759 paper, “An Experimental Enquiry Concerning the Natural Powers of Water and Wind to Turn Mills and Other Machines Depending on Circular Motion.” The theories Smeaton postulated to explain the relationship between pressure and velocity for objects moving in the air, applied to windmills. Smeaton won the Copley Medal for his work in 1759. Continue reading

Bernoulli Effect in Action


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