Sunday, May 29, 2011

Flight: What a Drag!

 The most difficult of the four forces of flight for Bean to understand has been drag.  I got in touch with an aeronautical engineer in the family who also happens to have a young son to see if he had any suggestions for demonstrating drag to a 3-year-old.  He suggested using water as a stand-in for air, so I set up the "experiment" pictured above.

It was a complete failure for demonstrating drag, but I think it might be successful with some changes.

Essentially, the goal was let Bean pull and push various objects (including his own hands) through water, seeing whether it was easier or more difficult to move different shapes/proportions in the water.  Obviously, more aerodynamic  ("aquadynamic" in this case?) objects will be movable with less effort.

My set-up was not good, though.  There needs to be more space and possibly more depth to the water.  I think I might set it up in the bath tub at some point.

He did end up deciding to re-create the "cake experiment" from one of his flight videos by throwing a cup full of water off the porch repeatedly and shouting lines from the video.  And he stayed cool while wearing his dad's 1983 long-sleeved velour shirt and underwear on a warm day.

We did eventually end up with an impromptu and successful demonstration of drag for Bean.  We rolled down the windows in the car and told him to put his hand out.  From his car seat, he can barely reach, but he can feel drag and get a sense of how it changes with the speed of the car and position of his hand!

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