The 4th of May has become somewhat of an unofficial day to honour the iconic film series Star Wars in recent years. Because the date is a rhyming pun of the hallmark line, “May the Force Fourth Be With You,” fans of Star Wars are honouring Luke, Leia, Yoda, and (maybe) even the Ewoks all around the world.
We decided to channel our inner Jedi by looking into the contributions science has made toward 3 types of transportation and helping humans travel great distances.
Even Jedis Can’t Fly! (An aeroplane)
Weight, Lift, Drag and Thrust.
Balance these four forces you must, to fly!
For an aeroplane to fly, these four different forces need to have the right balance. They fall within the study of aerodynamics within physics – which is simply the way air moves around things. Hence anything (e.g. planes, birds, kites) that moves through air reacts to aerodynamics.
- Weight comes from gravity pulling down on objects. Everything on Earth has it.
- Lift is the push that lets something move up, a force that is the opposite of weight.
- Drag is a force that tries to slow something down by making it hard for an object to move. The more air that hits a surface, the more drag it makes.
- Thrust is the force that is the opposite of drag, the push that moves something forward.
Aeroplane wings are an important component of lift due to the difference in air pressure on the top surface compared to the under surface as a plane flies. It causes the aeroplane to go up and is caused by the shape of an aeroplane’s wings as they are curved on top and flat on the bottom.
The Bernoulli Principle, named after Swiss Scientist Daniel Bernoulli, is a foundational principle of aerodynamics where he discovered that the pressure of fluids decreases as velocity increases. Alongside Newton’s three laws of motion, these principles formed the concept behind the flying of planes.
Here at Concept First, our in-house, fully equipped, hands-on Physics Lab lets our students experience these forces and principles themselves.
A Car. Drive It I Will.
We may not get to ride Landspeeders just yet, but cars rely just as much on the laws of physics to operate. Without natural forces like inertia, gravity, friction and energy, it would not be possible to start, move, stop or change the car’s direction. The car’s design can also influence the interaction of these forces with the car.
“Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.” – Yoda
Here are 4 physics phenomenons one must know to drive a car:
1. Gravitational Force
Gravity pulls the car towards the centre of the Earth. The downward pull of gravity will affect the car’s speed when one is driving or parking on a slope. If you are driving uphill, the vehicle would slow down; if you are driving downhill, it will speed up.
The amount of kinetic energy your car has will affect how easy it is to slow down or stop. This affects braking distance and the force of impact in collisions. These phenomenons are based on Newton’s three laws of motion related to inertia, the force of a moving object and the law of action and reaction.
3. Centrifugal and Centripetal Forces
These forces work in opposition to each other and affect objects travelling on a curved path. When driving on a curved road, your car will always be acted on by both of these forces. Striking a balance between these two forces helps to avoid understeering or oversteering.
Friction is the resistance between two contacting surfaces as they slide against each other. Friction between car tires and the road is known as traction. The traction force must be high for the car to move safely and for the driver to steer effectively. Friction is also needed during braking. To slow down or stop, the brakes must absorb the vehicle’s kinetic energy.
The Force Is Strong With Maglev Trains
Maglev trains knew something about levitation, just as Jedis used the Force to levitate. These transport machines are high-speed trains powered by magnetic forces.
This concept was birthed by James Powell when he got stuck in a traffic jam, dreaming of superconducting magnets to levitate a train car. Superconducting magnets are electromagnets that are cooled to extreme temperatures during use, which dramatically increases the power of the magnetic field (up to 10 times stronger than ordinary electromagnets).
In Maglev, superconducting magnets suspend a train car above a guideway. Like ordinary magnets, these magnets repel one another when like poles face each other.
These magnetic fields interact with simple metallic loops set into the walls of the Maglev guideway. Both magnetic attraction and repulsion are used to move the train car along the guideway.
One significant benefit of the Maglev train is safety. These trains are “driven” by the guideway with no drivers. No two trains on the same route can catch up and crash as they are being powered to move at the same speed. Train derailments are almost impossible too, as the further a Maglev train gets from its normal position between the guideway walls, the stronger the magnetic force pushing it back into place becomes.
“Always pass on what you have learned” – Yoda
At Concept First’s Physics Lab, the Force is in action as tutors and students explore a holistic understanding and exploration of these forces and principles of the universe. Very much like Jedis, if we may say so.
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