Daily Archives: October 21, 2011

Flying in Circles

Thousands of years ago, early hunters discovered that a single bend in a piece of wood gave it some interesting aerodynamics properties. Tossed vertically, a boomerang will fly in a loop, returning to its thrower. How is such a seemingly simple object able to move through the air so remarkably? When we examine the boomerang […]

Hummingbird’s Wake

One of my favorite things about spring and summer is lying in an open field watching the clouds go by. Every once and a while a plane will go by leaving an enormous wake of what looks like white clouds behind it. Only recently did I learn that these cloud trails are caused by vortexes of […]

It’s a bird. No it’s an insect. No, wait, its a hummingbird!

When we are young, we classify everything into very black and white catagories. What is a bird? Orginally, our response was a tiny flying animal with feathers and wings. However, that description is astronomically incorrect. Birds do not have to be small. The largest flying bird, the Argentavis, (extinct as of 2009) has a wingspan […]

The Physics of Paper Planes

We’ve seen many different gliders from the animal world throughout this course. But as children, our first experiences with gliding probably came from paper planes. As a kid, I remember learning lots of different designs for planes, in an effort to make them fly farther and stay in the air longer. But there are actually […]

Fly Like a… Bar-Headed Goose?

Have you ever seen a movie where birds are flying directly next to an airplane? Probably, but obviously in the real world, it could never happen. However, there are some birds that do fly above those nimbus clouds. The bar-headed goose. Magnificent and graceful, these geese migrate over Mount Everest every winter. Mount Everest capped […]