The Kutta–Joukowski Theorem


Kids, today we learn about lift. Yes we know that because of lift, airplanes can fly and witches get crushed by houses, but how does it really work?

(Credit: nasa.gov)

Wings are designed so air molecules travel further and faster along the top of the wing. This higher velocity on top creates and area of low pressure. The difference in air pressure creates lift. Bernoulli’s Equation is used to actually calculate this in fluid mechanics. Once I heard of this in my classes, I thought of all the other ways these concepts could be used. I mean if change in air pressure is all it takes to move something, then awesome!

Now here is where my creativity kicked in. What if we could use a spinning cylinder to create this same type of effect. On one side, the cylinder moves with the air molecules, and on the other side, against. This also causes a difference in air pressure and creates lift. If lift is needed in the other direction, the cylinder would just spin in the opposite direction. Same is true for spheres but the math shows that the longer the surface, the greater the lift. This is why cylinders probably work better. We could move ships, cars, maybe even fly planes with this type of technology! Especially if we combined it with the physics of magnets and electricity. Unfortunately, I discovered that this had already been done, well at least the cylinder part. The Kutta–Joukowski Theorem even supports the math behind it. I would have thought that the use of many cylinders in a line would be very useful and popular outside those old rolling slides they had at Discovery Zone when I was a kid. For some reason, much like the Sega Game Gear, Firefly, Arrested Development, Community, and Women’s Rights, it didn’t catch on… You can tell because you don’t really see these goofy things sailing around.

(Credit: nasa.gov)

 Now don’t get me wrong, I would totally own one. I would be some kind of Hipster Nerd if I did, but those Steam-Punk Pirates would probably fight me for it. I still feel like The Kutta–Joukowski Theorem will make a comeback though and make the world a better place, just like Peyton Manning. Perhaps I can run some experiments to see if I can combine rotating cylinders, lift, and magnets to create an even flow of electricity. I doubt I can experiment with aviation without dealing with the TSA. I am clearly not foreign, but I still get my bags wiped down occasionally.

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