Wednesday, April 17, 2024

What Is Air Resistance In Physics

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Power Curve In Aviation

AP Physics 1 – Air Resistance

Drag curvepower curvevs.

The interaction of parasitic and induced drag vs. airspeed can be plotted as a characteristic curve, illustrated here. In aviation, this is often referred to as the power curve, and is important to pilots because it shows that, below a certain airspeed, maintaining airspeed counterintuitively requires more thrust as speed decreases, rather than less. The consequences of being “behind the curve” in flight are important and are taught as part of pilot training. At the subsonic airspeeds where the “U” shape of this curve is significant, wave drag has not yet become a factor, and so it is not shown in the curve.

Types Of Air Resistance:

There are three main types of drag in aerodynamics Lift Induced, Parasitic, and Wave. Each affects an objects ability to stay aloft as well as the power and fuel needed to keep it there. Lift induced drag occurs as the result of the creation of lift on a three-dimensional lifting body . It has two primary components: vortex drag and lift-induced viscous drag.

The vortices derive from the turbulent mixing of air of varying pressure on the upper and lower surfaces of the body. These are needed to create lift. As the lift increases, so does the lift-induced drag. For an aircraft this means that as the angle of attack and the lift coefficient increase to the point of stall, so does the lift-induced drag.

Space Shuttle Columbia launching on its maiden voyage on April 12th, 1981. Credit: NASA

Wave drag is created by the presence of a body moving at high speed through a compressible fluid. In aerodynamics, wave drag consists of multiple components depending on the speed regime of the flight. In transonic flight at speeds of Mach 0.5 or greater, but still less than Mach 1.0 wave drag is the result of local supersonic flow.

Supersonic flow occurs on bodies traveling well below the speed of sound, as the local speed of air on a body increases when it accelerates over the body. In short, aircraft flying at transonic speeds often incur wave drag as a result. This increases as the speed of the aircraft nears the sound barrier of Mach 1.0, before becoming a supersonic object.

What Is Air Resistance

Here on Earth, we tend to take air resistance for granted. We just assume that when we throw a ball, launch an aircraft, deorbit a spacecraft, or fire a bullet from a gun, that the act of it traveling through our atmosphere will naturally slow it down. But what is the reason for this? Just how is air able to slow an object down, whether it is in free-fall or in flight?

Because of our reliance on air travel, our enthusiasm for space exploration, and our love of sports and making things airborne , understanding air resistance is key to understanding physics, and an integral part of many scientific disciplines. As part of the subdiscipline known as fluid dynamics, it applies to fields of aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, astrophysics, and nuclear physics .

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What Is The Free Fall

In Physics, free fall is a motion of the body where no forces, except for gravity, are acting upon it. It doesn’t mean that the object has necessarily to move downwards, though – for example, we can consider the Moon to be in free fall, as it is only subject to Earth’s gravitational force.

In this calculator, however, we treat the term “free fall” a little less scientific and consider any object that moves towards the ground as an object in free fall. For example, a skydiver of a parachute jumper who moves towards the ground will be in such a motion. Two forces are acting on him: one is gravity, and the other one is called the air resistance.

Shape And Size Of The Object

Air Resistance by Noa Prizant

A baseball might weigh asmuch as a blown-up beach ball, but the baseballs trajectory is far more like aparabola than a beach ball. The beach ball has a bigger surface area andundergoes higher air resistance, i.e., drag force. In case of a handkerchiefweighing the same as the baseball, the movement will be even more disturbed bythe drag. What if the object is falling from a very high distance above theground?

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Solution For Problem 29dq Chapter 5

University Physics | 13th Edition

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University Physics | 13th Edition

A ball is dropped from rest and feels air resistance as it falls. Which of the graphs in ?Fig. Q5.25? best represents its acceleration as a function of time?

Solution 29DQ The graph of the acceleration of the ball as a function of time when it drops from the rest and feels air resistance as it fall is shown below.the correct graph is graph. The figure shows the velocity of a particle as it travels along the values of time is instantaneous acceleration is equal to zero.

Maximum Vs Terminal Velocity

While falling, the object is steadily accelerating due to gravity. On the other hand, the air resistance force increases with velocity. At some point, the drag force will become large enough to completely oppose the gravitational force. At this point, the body stops accelerating and reaches its terminal velocity.

It doesn’t mean, though, that every object in free fall will reach its terminal velocity – after all, it may hit the ground before it reaches the terminal velocity. This is why our free fall with air resistance calculator will provide you with a different value: the maximum velocity that the body reaches before coming to a stop.

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The Annoying Physics Of Air Resistance

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One of the more memorable student course evaluations I’ve gotten in my years at Union was from a student in the introductory physics-for-engineers course who complained “They abstracted away all the interesting stuff, like air resistance.” This strikes physicists as a weird thing to say, because air resistance is annoying— if you abstract it away, you can solve a huge range of problems with a pencil and paper, getting elegant sets of equations you can write down and manipulate algebraically. When you include air resistance, though, you have basically no choice but to solve it numerically, writing some kind of computer simulation, and every time you want to change any of the parameters, you need to go back and run the whole simulation again. That’s a big hassle.

Of course, that mostly reflects a fundamental difference in mindset between physicists and engineers. Physicists are interested in fundamental laws and elegant equations, engineers are interested in building stuff. And when you’re building stuff that’s going to move around on the surface of the Earth, you need to worry about air resistance. Or, for that matter, off Earth, as air resistance is a big part of the plot of The Martian. So engineers tend get a little obsessive about it.

This is easy enough to demonstrate by throwing things around, and I shot some video the other day of me tossing the kids’ toys in the air to illustrate the basic point:

How To Calculate Air Resistance

How Physics Includes Air Resistance in Calculations | Real Physics

The resistance provided by air in the direction opposite to the direction of motion of an object that has some relative speed is known as ‘air resistance’. Learn how to calculate air resistance with the help of this article.

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The resistance provided by air in the direction opposite to the direction of motion of an object that has some relative speed is known as air resistance. Learn how to calculate air resistance with the help of this article.

Opposing the Opposition

Aerodynamics helps in overcoming the mechanical resistance of air seen in moving objects.

Newtons first law of motion states,

Every object continues to maintain the state of equilibrium that it is in, unless it is acted upon by an unbalanced external force.

This is mainly the reason that objects in motion come to a rest when they do not have a driving force to keep them in motion. Consider an object falling on the ground from a certain height. Gravitational force is an external unbalanced force that is acting on the object and this force brings the object to rest. However, there is also another unbalanced external force that is acting on these bodies causing them to come to a complete halt. This is the force of friction that is acting on the bodies in motion. This frictional force is because of the friction between the body in motion and the surface that it is moving on, if any, and the friction between the body and air molecules.

Formula to Calculate Air ResistanceAir Resistance Speed

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Examples Of Air Resistance

  • When you ride your bicycle fast, you can feel the air pushing back against your face and body.
  • On a day with heavy blowing winds, it is very difficult to walk through air, as it pushes back against you.
  • When a parachute falls down, air resists its movement causing the parachute to fall slowly.

Air resists the movement causing the parachute to fall slowly

  • A feather or a leaf fallen off a tree, gently floats down to the ground.

A leaf fallen off a tree gently floats down to the ground

  • On windy days light objects float all over the area before landing on the ground.

Why do the leaves fallen off trees float all over the place on windy days?

Light objects float all over the area on windy days

For Example

You might have experienced how difficult it was to hold on to your umbrella on a windy day

It is difficult to hold on to the umbrella on a windy day

How High Is Too High

If I drop an object from some height, there are two things I could do to obtain a value for the falling time. First, I could just ignore air resistance and use the typical kinematic equation:

Solving for the time is fairly straightforward. But what if I add in air resistance? What then? There is a problem. Air resistance is a force that depends on the velocity. This means that the force is not constant. That’s a big problem.

We can still solve this with a numerical calculations. In short, I can use a computer to model just a tiny time interval for a falling object. During this short time interval, the forces are roughly constant. Here is an older post that gives an introduction to numerical calculations. Also, don’t forget that my ebook has a whole chapter on numerical calculations.

Let’s just get to the calculation. Here is a model of a ping pong ball falling from a height of 10 meters. Actually, this is a Glowscript program so you can run it yourself and even edit it. Try it! In this calculation, I have a ping pong ball and a ball without air resistance dropped from the same height. In this plot, you can see that the ping pong ball hits after the no-air resistance ball with a time difference of 0.32

Here is a plot for the same objects showing the fractional difference in final velocities for with and without air resistance.

If I go with the same idea of getting just a 10 percent velocity error, the falling height for a human would 60 meters instead of 160 meters.

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Friction And Air Resistance

  • What is friction, and why does it happen?
  • If you drop a penny from a tall building, could it kill someone below?

Before reading this website, you might not have thought of friction as a force. In common language, the word is used to refer to almost anything that happens when two things come in contact, like when you start a fire by rubbing two sticks together or when two people get in an argument. Just like with all of our physics terms, however, we are going to give this one a much more specific definition.

Friction is the force that results when two objects rub together. Weve already seen the example of a book moving across a table, but Ive also briefly mentioned the more interesting example of the frictional force between car tires and the road, which actually moves the car forward.

So what causes friction? Ive hinted at that, too. In order to solve this problem, we have to go down to the microscopic level. If youre sitting at a table, run your hand over the surface. It probably feels pretty smooth, doesnt it? But if you had a powerful enough microscope, you could see that the seemingly solid tabletop is actually made up of billions of smaller particles molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles.

What this means is that when even the smoothest surfaces rub together, the bumps of one run into the bumps of the other. This is friction. Rougher surfaces have more and bigger bumps, which means more of these collisions will occur, which means more friction.

Big Ideas:

How Does Air Resistance Affect The Motion Of An Object


Air resistance acts similarly to friction in that it will oppose any motion. Air resistance slows things down.


Friction and Air Resistance act much the same in that they impart a force that points in the opposite direction of the object’s motion. When an object is not moving there is no air resistance or friction present.

In the air resistance formula the higher the velocity the more air resistance there will be for an object.

An example of this effect can be seen in vacuum tubes. In normal air a bowling ball will fall much faster than a feather. However, in a vacuum tube where the air resistance is 0 they will fall at the same rate.

This holds true for ANY object in the absence of air, since the only reason fall rate will vary for a single location is due to air resistance.

Here is a video that shows the very thing we are talking about:

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Free Fall With Air Resistance Calculator

This free fall with air resistance calculator is a variation of our free fall calculator that takes into consideration not only the influence of gravity but also of the air drag force. With its help, you will be able to assess the time of fall, as well as the terminal and maximum velocity more accurately.

In the text below, we will explain how this tool works. Not only will we provide you with a detailed explanation of how to calculate air resistance, but also with handy drag force equation that will make all computations a breeze!

Air Resistance And Light Objects

Gravity that is acting on light objects, like feathers, is not very strong to pull them towards the centre of the earth quickly. Besides, the air is all over the place. So, there is a lot of air resistance and that resistance makes light objects fall slower.

Air resistance makes light objects fall slower making them float for a while

When a feather falls, it falls slowly because the air is in its way.

If you dropped a feather and a golf ball at the same time in a vacuum , the feather would drop as fast as the golf ball.

Light objects fall slowly because the air is in its way

On a windy day in Autumn, have you seen the beautiful orange or red maple leaves floating all over the place, trying so hard to touch the ground??

When a leaf falls from a tree, it floats gently down to the ground. Air resistance pushes up against the surface of the leaf. The bigger the surface area, the greater the resistance. A leaf is so light the pull of gravity is not much stronger than the upward force of the air resistance. So the leaf falls slowly.

A leaf is so light the pull of gravity is not much stronger than the upward force of the air resistance

Forces on a Paper Plane

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When Many Factors Are Considered Constant In Falling Or Throwing An Object The Movement Should Be Parabolic However Rarely Does The Shape Look Like A Perfect Parabola Air Resistance And Drag Force Affect The Objects Movement And Velocity Relative To Its Shape

When a ball is tossed, itsmovement will shape a parabola. The ball goes forward and upward, then gravitystops its upward motion and drags it down, but the forward movement continues.However, the second half of the parabola usually covers a shorter distance thanthe first half. This is while the movement is actually parabolic. When thetossed object is a feather or a handkerchief, the motion might not formanything special at all.

This shows that the elementsinvolved in falling can affect it in different ways. The first of theseelements is air resistance. Other elements include velocity, the shape and surfacearea of the object, drag force, and the angle at which the object is thrown.

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Wave Drag In Transonic And Supersonic Flow

Air Resistance on Projectiles & Terminal Velocity – IB Physics

Wave drag is drag that is created when a body moves in a compressible fluid and at speeds that are close to the speed of sound in that fluid. In aerodynamics, wave drag consists of multiple components depending on the speed regime of the flight.

In transonic flight , wave drag is the result of the formation of shockwaves in the fluid, formed when local areas of supersonic flow are created. In practice, supersonic flow occurs on bodies traveling well below the speed of sound, as the local speed of air increases as it accelerates over the body to speeds above Mach 1.0. However, full supersonic flow over the vehicle will not develop until well past Mach 1.0. Aircraft flying at transonic speed often incur wave drag through the normal course of operation. In transonic flight, wave drag is commonly referred to as transonic compressibility drag. Transonic compressibility drag increases significantly as the speed of flight increases towards Mach 1.0, dominating other forms of drag at those speeds.

The closed form solution for the minimum wave drag of a body of revolution with a fixed length was found by Sears and Haack, and is known as the Sears-Haack Distribution. Similarly, for a fixed volume, the shape for minimum wave drag is the Von Karman Ogive.

The Busemann biplane theoretical concept is not subject to wave drag when operated at its design speed, but is incapable of generating lift in this condition.

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