Backspin Basketball Flies Off Dam | Summary and Q&A

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July 15, 2015
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Veritasium
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Backspin Basketball Flies Off Dam

TL;DR

The Magnus effect, observed when a rotating object travels through the air, has applications in sports like tennis and golf, as well as non-sport areas such as sailboats and aircraft.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is the Magnus effect?

The Magnus effect is a phenomenon observed when a rotating object, such as a basketball, moves through the air. It causes the object to experience a force perpendicular to its direction of motion.

Q: How does the Magnus effect affect the trajectory of a basketball?

When a basketball is thrown with backspin, the Magnus effect causes the air above the ball to move faster, creating low-pressure region, while the air below moves slower, creating a high-pressure region. This pressure difference results in an upward force, allowing the ball to stay airborne for longer.

Q: Is the Magnus effect only relevant in sports?

No, the Magnus effect has applications beyond sports. It is utilized in sailboats, where spinning cylinders called Flettner rotors are used to propel the ship forward by deflecting crosswinds. It is also explored in experimental rotor wing aircraft to generate lift.

Q: Are there any limitations or disadvantages to utilizing the Magnus effect?

While the Magnus effect can enhance performance in certain scenarios, it also introduces additional drag. For example, when using spinning cylinders instead of wings in aircraft, they generate more lift but also significantly more drag, making them less practical for widespread use.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Friends dropped a basketball off a high dam, noticing that backspin caused it to travel farther due to the Magnus effect.

  • The Magnus effect occurs because air on the front side of a rotating ball gets dragged along with it while air on the other side separates from the ball.

  • The Magnus effect is utilized in sports like tennis and golf, as well as in sailboats and experimental rotor wing aircraft.

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