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The fascinating physics of boat wakes


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If you look at the wake behind a duck, or a kayak, or a ship, you might notice two things: first, it’s a feathery, rippled pattern, and second, that pattern looks the same regardless of whether it’s made by a duck, kayak, or ship— even though they’re all moving at different speeds and the waves are different sizes. How is this possible? Minutephysics digs into the Kelvin wake pattern.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Dig into how new experiments have solved a problem regarding the so-called Kelvin angle in boat wakes, which has been unchallenged for 127 years.

Explore the life and discoveries of physicist and engineer William Thomson, Lord Kelvin. In addition to the Kelvin wave, he was best known for calculating the lowest possible temperature in the universe— absolute zero

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