Aerodynamics for Dummies: What is lift?

May 31, 2022

We’ve got our lab coats, safety goggles and pens at the ready – it’s time for some science sh%t. Julien Peelman (our Brain Child) has put his teaching hat on to take us through a series of lessons where we’ll be learning all about aerodynamics. And yes, that is Aerodynamics for Dummies. We can’t all be engineers and scientists. So grab your lab partner and get stuck in. Our first lesson is about ROCKET SCIENCE!!! Actually, it’s not. It’s about lift, which really isn’t rocket science. So what is lift, you ask? Well, our esteemed Professor explains all below. Take it away, Prof!

Lift is not rocket science

As you probably noticed, parachutes are now much more than a piece of fabric slowing you down on the way to Earth to save your ass. Well, it is still mainly a piece of fabric and it is still saving your ass. But what’s super cool is that it truly is flying. The difference comes from a force which is perpendicular to the trajectory and this force is called lift.

How lift is created is a complex topic. Despite a century of research and millions of wings flying in the sky, posting anything on this topic is an extreme sport. It’s not unusual to receive hundreds of comments and anonymous threats to your family. So let’s keep it simple (and for the threats, please contact…

Forget about the romantic story of the two particles who are together at the front of the airfoil, separate and then magically meet again at the tail, like a pair of star-crossed lovers. And that would be some serious voodoo magic since they were both travelling at different speeds. Along different lengths. Particles just don’t give a f*** about each other and don’t bother about meeting again. Penguins, they are not.

And you should definitely forget about the piece of paper on the top of which you blow to make it move upward. This is due to viscosity which lift has nothing to do with. And between us, do you think moving a piece of paper (0.005kg, 1sqft) is really the same story as lifting Cedric Veiga Rios (110kg, 80sqft)?

Things are actually much simpler than Bernoulli’s theorem, the Coanda effect or the conservation of flow… The real key is Newton’s 3rd law: “To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction”.

The canopy is pushed upward by the relative wind only because it is moving a huge amount of air downward. Very much like a fan blade is pushing air to create some air flow. This is due to the fact that the wing is travelling through the air at an angle called angle of attack and deflects the flow. Everything else you can read or hear about lift is either bullsh%t or going more into details of how to move more air downward without wasting too much energy. But we will talk about that in a later lesson.

That’s it from the Professor this time. Check in (or subscribe) next time where our French Genius will be teaching us about drag – is it the Dark Side of the Force?

Want to know more about the genius behind our wings?

Have a listen to Julien chat with Dean Ricci in an episode from The Lunatic Fringe podcast. He also got together with the guys in our R&D department to talk about prototype stuffs. Listen to them chat together here.


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