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The Physics Of Flight Essay

807 words - 4 pages

The Physics of Flight
Flight is composed of four basic ideas thrust, drag, weight, and lift. Drag resists forward motion and thrust fights to overcome it. Weight pulls an object down to Earth and lift tries to keep it in the air. Those four basic ideas govern all aspects of flight. And yet, man had not mastered flight until the 1900s, while nature had been working with flight for millions and millions of years.
To our knowledge, active flight has evolved four times in nature, and gliding flight has evolved multiple times. The first animals believed to take flight were insects around 410 million years ago. These first flying insects resembled dragonflies, and were from the Carboniferous. ...view middle of the document...

As a technical definition, powered flight is when a flyer uses their wings to create enough thrust to overcome any drag. Active flyers flap their wings in a non-linear pattern that includes many overlapping loops. These flyers have many more opportunities due to the increased terrain availability. Active flyers also do not need an updrift and can take to the air from any point and fly upwards as much as they would like (Alexander 70).
Gliding, which does not use any active effort, actually uses the power of gravity to stay aloft for a period of time. These animals may also use active flight or not be able to because they can not flap their wings. The flying animals with both active flight and gliding can use soaring in which they climb high enough to stay aloft for long amounts of time with minimal effort. These soaring animals can maintain flight for up to days at a time (Alexander 36).
There are four important wing types that have large effects on flight. Passive soaring wings are good for allowing the flying animal to catch large currents of hot air called thermals. These wings are broad, and have very long feathers that stick out. Animals with active soaring wings are much more dependent of wind wind currents. Active soaring wings are long and narrow, which helps the bird soar for an extended time. Elliptical wings are great for high-speed bursts, and while they can reach high-speeds they can not...

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