Getting a Lift – Potty Science Club

Hello and welcome to the seventh session of Potty Science Club. We hope you have found our previous experiments interesting and enjoyable.

All our experiments are conducted in a home environment, not in a lab, and will be safe and simple using equipment and items you can find in your own home. The experiments will reflect on an item or exhibit held in the Museum’s collections.

The museum’s largest exhibit recently returned to Stoke-on-Trent – Spitfire RW388. The Spitfire is one of the most famous fighter airplanes in history. The Spitfire’s famously shaped wing is elliptical, with the thinnest possible cross-section and its sunken rivets gave the airplane a much faster top speed than most other fighter airplanes of that time. The special wings also made the Spitfire one of the most manoeuvrable in the sky, giving them the advantage in one-on-one battles.

But how does an airplane fly?

Thrust from an engine allows the plane to move forward, and the fast forward movement creates airflow around the wings.  An airplanes wing is shaped into an aerofoil which looks a bit like a teardrop, Its curved on the top and flat on the underside. The curved top forces the air to move faster and fast-moving air has a lower air pressure – this is known as Bernoulli’s principle. Lift is also created by high pressure under the wing if it is tilted up into the wind – this why planes with flat wings can fly, and why some planes can fly upside down.

 The higher pressure below the wing pushes the wing upward lifting the airplane into the sky.                                  

It would be difficult to demonstrate flight in your home environment, but we can demonstrate Bernoulli’s principle of changing air pressure and achieving lift through a very simple experiment.

All you need for this experiment is a strip of paper, and lung power.

First, hold the edge of the paper below your bottom lip so it hangs like a tongue, and blow hard over the top of the paper.

By blowing across the top of the paper you are lowering the air pressure, the higher air pressure below pushes upwards producing lift, so the paper rises upward.

Simple really!

By Rob Gagliano, Casual Learning Development Leader and Natural Science Collections Volunteer

Written by museumvolunteers - Modified by Glenn Roadley (Curator, Natural Sciences)

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