Why do wings help you fly?
How does a wing generate lift? This is the most fundamental question we ask when learning about the science of flight, and yet there is much confusion around it. Many of the popular explanations of lift are just plain wrong. Let's clear them up!
Additional Resources for you to Explore
This video is one of many in the growing collection of Veritasium, a science video blog, covered by Wired Science Blogs in July 2012. To learn more about the "correct" and "incorrect" explanations of lift, read the NASA web pages on Incorrect Theory #1 and Incorrect Theory #2, but make sure to also look at the correct explanations on Lift from Flow Turning and Lift from Pressure.You can also read an interesting article about this confusion that appeared in Plane & Pilot magazine (July 2006).A more thorough discussion is found in the article "How do wings work?," published in the journal Physics Education (Vol. 38, page 497, 2003). You may or may not get access to the PDF depending on your library's subscription.The article "How Airplanes Fly: A Physical Description of Lift" (Sport Aviation, Feb. 1999, and reproduced in The Aviation History On-line Museum) also offers a complete technical discussion, including the Coanda effect (not mentioned in the article above). The Coanda effect explains why the air follows a curved surface, such as the top of a wing.What if human flight wasn't just the stuff of epic comic book stories? Is it scientifically possible to fly? Joy Lin tackles the superpower of flight and reveals just how scientifically realistic it can be to us mere mortals.
The explanation of lift is only one example where popularization of science gets it wrong. Can you think of others?