The Magic of Flight!

I am probably the biggest Harry Potter fan in the world, even bigger than that one Slytherin TikTok girl that is super popular and a Harry Potter nerd.

I out dueled this girl by proposing to my Gryffindor (which automatically makes her better, she’s in the good house in series) wife by using the first Harry Potter book instead of a ring box.

It hurt my heart to cut a book, but it was incredibly worth it because my wife is the best.

One of the coolest things in the entire Wizarding World is quidditch. It’s an insane wizard game that mixes soccer, cricket, hockey, and a scavenger hunt; all the while the participants are flying around on freaking brooms.

Seriously, when I saw that first movie and they were playing quidditch, my siblings and I started running around with brooms and sticks trying to play it in the backyard.

We couldn’t figure out how to actually fly, so I guess we were all the worst, but we had a lot of fun.

I blame my desire to fly on a broom as a reason why I love piloting airplanes so much. I couldn’t figure out how brooms fly (magic, if I was a betting man), but I do know how humans got airplanes to fly!

Basics of Flight

If anyone has access to magic, please let me know…seriously, email me, call me, DM me on social media. Just something, please.

Until you hit me up, I’m going to have to stick with my understanding of Muggle Magic, better known as science.

There are 2 Muggle Magicians, or scientists for those that don’t like my Harry Potter jokes, that really explained the mystical magic of flight for the rest of the world: Daniel Bernoulli and Sir Isaac Newton.

Newton’s 3 Laws

Motion Commotion - Lesson - TeachEngineering
[Image via TeachEngineering]

Sir Isaac Newton is one of the most important scientists of all time. I had a math teacher in high school that would constantly remind the class of this.

Newton has 3 very important laws of physics. That means, these laws, unlike laws of the government, cannot be broken no matter how hard you try. These laws also influence all of physics, which is the branch of muggle magic that gives us flight.

1st Law: An object persists in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless it is compelled to change by another force.

An easy way of looking at this is that an object in motion will stay in motion unless something makes it stop. On earth we have atmosphere, which consists of winds and all air, physical objects like the grass, ground, or water, and gravity that pretty much are always playing into objects movement.

2nd Law: A force is equal to the change in momentum per change in time. For a constant mass, force equals mass times acceleration.

Another wording that may be easier to understand is, an objects acceleration is directly dependent on the mass and force applied to the object. So, a big ball, like a bowling ball, takes more force to push than a small ball, like a golf ball.

3rd Law: For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction.

The easiest way to apply this to flight is with a propeller. A propeller pushes air backwards, so it moves the airplane forward. The force of the air is going back, so the force of the airplane is going forward.

Bernoulli’s Principle of Differential Pressure

[Image via UAF]

I know, you’re probably kind of confused with the massive amounts of information already, but I promise it’ll all come together in a little bit.

Bernoulli was also a really smart guy, but I didn’t know about him until I started learning about flight. I’m not saying he is less important because that is all based on perspective, but his principle is how we have aviation so…

Bernoulli’s Principle: the velocity of a moving fluid, in the case of aviation is air, increases, so the pressure within the fluid decreases.

To start this off, fluid does not mean a liquid. Fluid is how easily something can move or be moved through. That’s not a technical definition, but it’s the easiest way to understand this concept in my opinion.

Both gasses and liquids are fluids. Solids are not fluid. So, when it comes to scientific equations, gasses, like air, are calculated as fluids. This is because gas, although providing very little opposing force due to its high fluidity, still has mass.

Secondarily for the principle, fluids always want to move from high pressure to low pressure to create equilibrium. This is very important to create lift.

Creating Lift

Cars go fast, but they don’t fly. This shows we already know how to make things move, but how do they fly?

It’s primarily an issue of overcoming gravity to get in the air.

The way we do this is with airfoils, or wings.

Wings are designed in a specific way to utilize both Newton’s 3rd law and Bernoulli’s principle of pressure differential.

Newton's Third Law of Motion
[Image via NASA]

The wings of an airplane have a flat bottom and a curved top. This design optimizes the scientific calculation to create lift.

They also are slightly angled up, usually about 3 degrees or so this is where Newton’s 3rd law comes into play.

As the powerplant pushes the airplane forward (Newton’s 2nd law here) and air backward, the leading edge of the wings encounters air. The slight angle of the underside pushes the air down. Due to Newton’s 3rd law, the wings are pushed up creating lift!

But that doesn’t create enough lift to sustain long term flight, so Bernoulli’s principle of differential pressure comes into play here.

Bernoulli’s principle comes into play because the air coming at the wing is split. The air pushed downward is creating a high pressure than the air on top of the wing that is creating a lower pressure.

Like Bernoulli said, the high pressure air pushes the wings up to try and achieve the equilibrium of air that nature desires.

It’s not quite magic, but it gets the job done. Next time you fly, you can thank these muggle magicians, Bernoulli and Newton, for helping the rest of humanity figure out that we can experience this magic.

Remember, we study not to be pilots, not to be good pilots, but to be the best pilots! Now, go out there and be the best.

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