What Factors Affect the Flight of a Paper Airplane?

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A number of interesting factors affect the flight of a paper airplane, including wind resistance. Find out what factors affect the flight of a paper airplane with help from an experienced science enthusiast in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: Science & Math
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Kristin Oviedo and this is what factors affect the flight of a paper airplane. So when you study any object that flies or even just coasts or floats all of them are gonna have 4 main forces that are acting upon them at all times. So it's pretty easy to remember these 4 things because they act in the 4 cardinal directions. You see I have thrust which is what propels it forward. Air drag which opposes thrust, lift and lastly gravity which acts on everything in the universe and notice I put the accelaeration due to gravity coming from this little dot, that is the center of mass and that will come into play in just a second. So when you make a paper airplane essentially what you're trying to do is change these 3 quantities to your advantage. You can't really do anything about thrust when you fold the airplane but you can do something about it when you actually throw it. So most paper airplanes that have the capacity to go the farthest are going to move the center of gravity forward and they're gonna try to decrease drag by making it very streamline and they're gonna try to increase the service are of the wings to increase lift. So you want the paper airplane to guide smoothly through the air. You don't want to move it around a lot so lets really quickly define pitch, roll, and yaw. Pitching is this sort of motion. Rolling is this sort of motion and yawing is this sort of motion. So really the only thing that you need to worry about is rolling. In this case the shape of a normal paper airplane will prevent the other 2 pretty well. So again if you want to prevent as much pitch, roll, and yaw as possible you want to make this dimension as long as possible. You want to give this dimension as much length as you can for surface area and again you want to scoot that center of gravity as close to the front as you can. Some of the shorter folded designs will have other advantages but if you're just talking about you know flight time and just stability of flight these are the things that you are gonna want to maximize. I'm Kristen Oviedo and that is what factors affect the flight of a paper airplane.


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