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Wind-drag on sock and carpet , which one flies the furthest?

  1. Jul 21, 2013 #1
    Wind-drag on "sock" and "carpet", which one flies the furthest?

    Hello everyone,

    A few days ago, I was like many others lying on a beach, enjoying the weather, when suddenly a force of wind let fly both a carpet and my socks, lying next to me. I get up and rush for the socks, which in the blink of an eye had covered something like 5 meters, grabs them and turns around to find that the carpet luckily had hit some bloke on the beach and wrapped itself around his legs. Still, I hear my friend yelling at me, "Get the carpet! damn it!".

    When I get back, with the carpet and the socks, he is furious with me, and tells me that I should have gone for the carpet, before the socks.

    A few curses later, it has turned into a physics subject, about whether the socks would fly further than the carpet, given the same rush of wind (or air force).

    We talk about inertia and density, and he compares the carpet to a "sail" on a ship, and tells me it is the same principle, and that no sock could have carried a ship with same speed (and hence distance in the span of the wind-strike)

    Now in all modesty, being an autodidact physics "dummy" (for now) I think that the wind would not
    carry it far, because the majority of the air molecules, carrying the carpet would frequently shift from surface area to surface area and hence the carpet would undergo a non-stable flight and eventually crash, just like filling a paddling pool with water and trying to lift it, the water will shift from side to side and the center of gravity will change, making the paddling pool itself shift and take on form depending on the movement of the water.

    The sock however, being lighter and smaller will get carried far.

    Anyway, I am very interested in hearing your opinion on this subject. Even if it seems awfully trivial, I would greatly appreciate some explanation involving the forces and inertia etc :)

    Thanks in advance,
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 22, 2013 #2
    One thing you did not consider is that the carpet probably has a much greater surface area, which linearly effects your total generated lift.

    In short I believe the carpet will fly farther with an initial burst of lift due to its much greater surface area (assuming the carpet isn't too much heavier than the sock). However, the sock will fall from the sky slower because of its reduced mass and significantly lower weight The latter corresponds to a smaller terminal velocity.
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