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Shh...
I've snuck into minutephysics' studio to explain how a wing actually works
Hang on, something doesn't feel right.
Ah, that's better.
Now everyone knows that a wing generates lift due to its characteristic shape
Since air travels farther over top of the wing, it must go faster than the air underneath
so that both streams meet up simultaneously at the trailing edge
And according to Bernoulli's principle, faster flowing air exerts less pressure than the
slower air beneath the wing This pressure difference creates an upward
force -- lift.
Job done.
Right?
Nope This simple explanation taught in many textbooks
and classrooms has obvious problems Like how could a plane fly upside down?
Some planes like the Wright brothers' had nearly flat wings.
So presumably air would travel the same speed over both sides and there would be no lift
Plus experiments show that air streams don't meet up at the back of the wing.
Air over the top goes significantly faster, reaching the trailing edge first.
So how does a wing actually generate lift?
Well the key is the wing must deflect air downwards
This can be achieved using asymmetric or cambered air foils
Or by increasing the angle of attack Air under the wing is deflected down
And by the coanda effect air above the wing is guided along its surface
and down as well Since the air is slowed and deflected down
by the wing, it pushes the wing up and back.
Lift, and drag.
This is in accordance with Newton's Third Law of Motion
But hang on, if you can explain lift only using the deflection of air and Newton's laws,
then the Bernoulli explanation must be completely wrong
Well, no, air over the top of the wing does go faster
than air beneath, creating a pressure difference that generates lift
Then this Newtonian explanation is unnecessary rubbish and the original explanation was right!
That's not true either.
The original explanation incorrectly assumed that air over and under the wing must reconnect
at the trailing edge, and there was no mention of deflecting air down.
Each explanation, done correctly, completely accounts for the lift generated by a wing.
They're just two different ways of looking at the same thing.
So next time someone brings up the standard misconception, you can tell them that explanation
just doesn't fly.
And if you liked that, you've gotta check out MinutePhysics.
I've got total respect for a guy who does this every week.
Sincerely, a collection of particles known as Derek.