# Why does vertically falling rain make a slanted steaks on a window?

by PHYSMajor
Tags: falling, rain, slanted, steaks, vertically, window
 P: 8 I recently solved a question related to the problem below, but am having trouble getting an intuition for the problem. Suppose an automobile is traveling at a constant horizontal velocity, u, and it's raining. There is no wind, so the raindrops do not have an initial horizontal velocity, just a vertical one. However, when the rain reaches the window, it is "given" a horizontal velocity. This horizontal velocity, as measured relative to a point on the ground, is the same as that of the automobile's. However, if we take our reference frame to be a point on the automobile, then the horizontal velocity of the rain should be zero, no? Thus the rain would only have a vertical velocity, and should not appear to be slanted from the perspective of someone sitting inside the car. So essentially, my question is: Why does vertically falling rain make slanted streaks on the side of a window?
 Mentor P: 41,585 You have it backwards. Relative to the ground, the rain has no horizontal component of velocity. Relative to the car it does.
 P: 90 Its all a matter of air resistance isn't it. The water droplets cannot oppose the air resistance as well as the car can. If you stick a piece of string out the window, the string won't hang vertically, it will hang slightly horizontally even though its horizontal velocity with respect to the car is 0. Thats only because it can't oppose the air resistance as well as the car. If you hang a piece of paper with the same mass as the string, it won't hang as all, it will be completely horizontal because its affected by air resistance to a much greater extent than the string. Also in the case of water droplets, a major factor to be considered is the intermolecular forces between the water and the window. If it was raining hexane, I bet the streaks would be much more horizontal because there would be much weaker intermolecular forces between it and the glass. Hanging a piece of string out the window is a better example because you don't have to consider intermolecular forces attaching the second object to the car.
P: 8
Why does vertically falling rain make a slanted steaks on a window?

 Quote by Doc Al You have it backwards. Relative to the ground, the rain has no horizontal component of velocity. Relative to the car it does.
Initially, the rain would not have a horizontal component. Once it is "on the car," the horizontal velocity of the rain relative to the rain would be the same as that of the car relative to the ground. This would mean that the horizontal velocity of the rain relative to the car is zero. I know I am doing something wrong, but I don't understand what.
P: 8
 Quote by mycotheology Its all a matter of air resistance isn't it. The water droplets cannot oppose the air resistance as well as the car can. If you stick a piece of string out the window, the string won't hang vertically, it will hang slightly horizontally even though its horizontal velocity with respect to the car is 0. Thats only because it can't oppose the air resistance as well as the car. If you hang a piece of paper with the same mass as the string, it won't hang as all, it will be completely horizontal because its affected by air resistance to a much greater extent than the string.
The problem assumes that there is no air resistance. Apologies for not mentioning that.

If the car was moving at a constant velocity, and a vertical piece of string, say, hangs from the roof of the car, the string would stay vertical. It would not be slanted. I just can't bring myself to understand why the rain wouldn't behave the same way if seen from someone inside the car.
Mentor
P: 41,585
 Quote by PHYSMajor Initially, the rain would not have a horizontal component.
With respect to the ground the velocity of the rain has no horizontal component. Not just 'initially', but at all times.
 Once it is "on the car," the horizontal velocity of the rain relative to the rain would be the same as that of the car relative to the ground.
The car is moving at some horizontal velocity with respect to the ground; the rain is not. With respect to the car, the rain does have a horizontal velocity. If the car is moving at 60 mph east with respect to the road, then the rain has a horizontal component of 60 mph west with respect to the car.
Mentor
P: 41,585
 Quote by PHYSMajor If the car was moving at a constant velocity, and a vertical piece of string, say, hangs from the roof of the car, the string would stay vertical. It would not be slanted. I just can't bring myself to understand why the rain wouldn't behave the same way if seen from someone inside the car.
The rain clouds are not traveling along inside the car, are they?
P: 90
 Quote by PHYSMajor The problem assumes that there is no air resistance. Apologies for not mentioning that. If the car was moving at a constant velocity, and a vertical piece of string, say, hangs from the roof of the car, the string would stay vertical. It would not be slanted. I just can't bring myself to understand why the rain wouldn't behave the same way if seem from someone inside the car.
Ah right, then in that case I think intermolecular forces would be the main factor behind non vertical streaking. The water droplets don't instantaneously merge with the glass, they can only attach to the glass with adhesive forces determined by the intermolecular forces between H2O and SiO2. The car is accelerating (or it at least had to accelerate to reach its current velocity) but the water droplet isn't. If it was raining superglue, then the droplets would be attached to the window so strongly (after they solidified at least) that they can be considered as the same object as the car, and thus accelerate with the car but in the case of water droplets, they're not truly part of the car, they are only clinging on with dipole-dipole interactions.
P: 8
 Quote by Doc Al With respect to the ground the velocity of the rain has no horizontal component. Not just 'initially', but at all times. The car is moving at some horizontal velocity with respect to the ground; the rain is not. With respect to the car, the rain does have a horizontal velocity. If the car is moving at 60 mph east with respect to the road, then the rain has a horizontal component of 60 mph west with respect to the car.
Once the rain is on the window, it is moving at the same speed as the car. If the car is moving at 60mph, then the rain is also moving at 60mph. The 60mph of the car was measured with respect to the ground, so it should be the same for the rain. So how can it be that the horizontal velocity of the rain wrt the ground is zero at all times?

Secondly, I mentioned that the rain is on the window, and is traveling at the same horizontal velocity as the car. Then how can the rain have a 60mph with respect to the car? This is like saying that if you are running along a track at [B]x mph[B], and a dog is running beside you at x mph (these velocities are measured with respect to the ground), the dog's velocity is x mph with respect to you. We know that this isn't true because the dog is running right beside you. If it's velocity with respect to you was x mph, the dog would not be running beside you, but ahead of you.

For some reason, I am beginning to get the feeling that that my understanding of relative motion is wrong. I don't know where I am wrong though.
Mentor
P: 41,585
 Quote by PHYSMajor Once the rain is on the window, it is moving at the same speed as the car. If the car is moving at 60mph, then the rain is also moving at 60mph. The 60mph of the car was measured with respect to the ground, so it should be the same for the rain. So how can it be that the horizontal velocity of the rain wrt the ground is zero at all times?
Ah, so you are talking about after the rain has hit the car and come to rest? Do you realize that before the rain actually strikes the car that it is moving at an angle with respect to the car, thus of course it streaks at an angle?
 Secondly, I mentioned that the rain is on the window, and is traveling at the same horizontal velocity as the car.
Only after the drops come to rest on the surface of the car, if they every do. But the interesting thing is the speed and angle at which they hit the car.
P: 8
 Quote by mycotheology Ah right, then in that case I think intermolecular forces would be the main factor behind non vertical streaking. The water droplets don't instantaneously merge with the glass, they can only attach to the glass with adhesive forces determined by the intermolecular forces between H2O and SiO2. The car is accelerating (or it at least had to accelerate to reach its current velocity) but the water droplet isn't. If it was raining superglue, then the droplets would be attached to the window so strongly (after they solidified at least) that they can be considered as the same object as the car, and thus accelerate with the car but in the case of water droplets, they're not truly part of the car, they are only clinging on with dipole-dipole interactions.
Wouldn't this mean that the drops are not traveling at the same horizontal velocity as the car? The problem I was doing in the textbook said that we are to assume they are traveling at the same horizontal velocity as the car. I think this is more a question of relative motion than of intermolecular interactions. What you say makes perfect sense though. It's just that the question assumes that intermolecular interactions is not the case. In a more realistic situation, it would be.
 Emeritus Sci Advisor PF Gold P: 5,196 Are you talking about raindrops streaking across a side window? You seem be assuming that as soon as the raindrop comes in contact with the car, it instantaneously gains a horizontal component equal to the car's and therefore should begin to move forward with it. Not necessarily... Edit: Doc Al basically said this two posts up. Sorry.
Mentor
P: 41,585
 Quote by PHYSMajor The problem I was doing in the textbook said that we are to assume they are traveling at the same horizontal velocity as the car.
Are you sure it said velocity and not speed?

If the car is moving at 60 mph with respect to the road, then the rain will have a horizontal velocity of 60 mph with respect to the car.

Can you please give the name of your textbook and the problem number.
 PF Gold P: 1,909 PHYSMajor, The answer to your question, “Why does vertically falling rain make slanted streaks on the side of a window?” is simple: The water drop adheres to the window and gravity pulls it downward. The wind rushing by drags it towards the rear of the car. The resultant of the two forces is a slanted path downwards and backwards. Cohesion: Water is attracted to water Adhesion: Water is attracted to other substances http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/adhesion.html Cheers, Bobbywhy
 Mentor P: 5,406 There is something missing from the analyses that have appeared so far. I am a fluid mechanics guy, so I think I can clear up the issue. When a drop first hits the car, not all parts of the drop take on the car velocity instantaneously. Only the part of the drop at the very interface with the car body takes on the car velocity. This is the so-called "no slip" boundary condition of fluid mechanics. Other parts of the drop, because of their inertia, are still traveling with the velocity they had before hitting the car. Because of viscous stresses, the zero velocity effect at the surface penetrates into the drop, and eventually the entire body of water that originally comprised the drop achieves the velocity of the car. In practice, I do think that air drag also plays an important role in retarding the rate at which the water achieves the car velocity.
Mentor
P: 41,585
 Quote by Bobbywhy The answer to your question, “Why does vertically falling rain make slanted streaks on the side of a window?” is simple: The water drop adheres to the window and gravity pulls it downward. The wind rushing by drags it towards the rear of the car. The resultant of the two forces is a slanted path downwards and backwards.
I'd say it was even simpler. "Vertically" falling rain makes slanted streaks on the side windows because with respect to the car the rain isn't falling vertically. No need to involve wind here. The car is moving; that's all you need.

I don't think we need to get into the fluid dynamics or adhesion effects of the drop/glass interaction to explain this simple effect! As PHYSMajor suspects, the problem is one of understanding reference frames.
Mentor
P: 5,406
 Quote by Doc Al I'd say it was even simpler. "Vertically" falling rain makes slanted streaks on the side windows because with respect to the car the rain isn't falling vertically. No need to involve wind here. The car is moving; that's all you need. I don't think we need to get into the fluid dynamics or adhesion effects of the drop/glass interaction to explain this simple effect! As PHYSMajor suspects, the problem is one of understanding reference frames.
If it weren't for the "no slip boundary condition" and surface tension, the drop would not leave a streak on the window. It would simply slide in its entirety along the window, without leaving a residue. As for air drag (wind), I guess you've never been in a car where a kid throws up out the front passenger window, and the vomit splashes all over the rear passenger window. Drops are much smaller than globs of vomit and are affected much more strongly by air drag.
Mentor
P: 41,585
 Quote by Chestermiller If it weren't for the "no slip boundary condition" and surface tension, the drop would not leave a streak on the window. It would simply slide in its entirety along the window, without leaving a residue.
The key point is that it slides at an angle due to the relative velocity.
 As for air drag (wind), I guess you've never been in a car where a kid throws up out the front passenger window, and the vomit splashes all over the rear passenger window. Drops are much smaller than globs of vomit and are affected much more strongly by air drag.
The problem ignores air resistance. Or did you miss that?

Don't complicate a simple problem.

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