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Curve Ball Aerodynamics

Who hasn't wondered at those magical curve balls that we see in sports such as tennis, soccer, baseball and most impressively in ping pong? Or been disappointed by a horrible slice in a game of golf? Of course, there is no magic, these are just examples of aerodynamics in action – the Magnus effect to be precise.

Magnus Effect on a Spinning Ball Moving in AirMagnus Effect on a Spinning Ball Moving in Air

World Water Speed Record Challengers

The world water speed record (317mph or 511 km/h) is under assault from 3 teams. The defending world record holder, Ken Warby is up for the challenge, as are teams from the USA and the UK.

Split-Cycle Engine Concept

The new Scuderi Split-Cycle engine design concept promises increased efficiency and reduced harmful NOx emissions compared to the current generation of internal combustion engines found in most cars. Ironically, this new concept is a variation on the notoriously inefficient and polluting 2-stroke engine.

Energy from the Environment

The wind turbine is the poster child for extracting energy from our environment. However, there are numerous other devices that range from the mundane, such as hydroelectric dams, to the downright scary, such as the Atmospheric Vortex Engine which is another word for a controlled (?!) tornado.

Hydroelectric TurbineHydroelectric TurbineCourtesy of United States Army Corps of Engineers

Micro Wind Turbines

Micro (or personal) wind turbines are sprouting on the rooftops of many UK homes in an effort to defeat our addiction to fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Laudable goals, but most of these 'off-the-shelf' roof-mounted wind turbines struggle to generate enough electricity to power a single light bulb.

Micro Wind Turbine Mounted on a House

Vertical-Axis Wind Turbines

While clusters of horizontal-axis wind turbines are our primary weapon in the war to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to save the planet from the effects of global warming, there are other interesting wind turbine designs. Vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWT) come in a variety of shapes and sizes for those keen to take the path less travelled.

Darrieus Vertical-Axis Wind TurbineDarrieus Vertical-Axis Wind TurbineImage courtesy of FloWind

Anatomy of a Horizontal-Axis Wind Turbine

Today the most cost-effective means of capturing wind energy is a horizontal-axis wind turbine positioned on land or at sea in a proven windy area. Whether micro, personal or industrial – modern horizontal-axis wind turbines share the same basic features.

Wind TurbineWind TurbineLicense: CC BY 2.0, phault

Wind Energy: Back to the Future

Global warming concerns have launched a renewable electricity-generation boom with sleek wind-turbine farms on land and at sea playing a leading role. Yet capturing wind energy using windmills is an ancient science that pre-dates the use of electricity. The invention of the windmill is variously attributed to the Babylonians (circa 1700BC) and the Persians (circa 600-900AD); either way it is still an ancient machine.


Dutch Windmill in JapanDutch Windmill in JapanLicense: CC BY-SA 2.0, Hisakuni Fujimoto

Build It Yourself

The democratization of technology isn't just about making things for less, to line the already full pockets of CEOs. The ubiquity of technology also allows hobbyists and students to build more for less. Nowhere is this truer than for aerodynamic gadgets such as cars, planes and even wind turbines!

Why not try building a wind turbine? Short on ideas? Try a Google search for 'build your own wind turbine' and you'll be inundated with ideas and designs for wind turbines. Blades cut from plastic pipe and a repurposed generator from Ebay are enough to get you started on a horizontal axis wind turbine generating environmentally friendly energy with zero greenhouse gas emissions. If you're feeling a little adventurous and don't have much wind around, why not consider building a vertical axis wind turbine, maybe a Savonius or a Darrieus, which can exploit the merest whiff of a breeze. These are things your neighbor will have a hard time topping by shopping at Home Depot.

Solar Powered CarsSolar Powered CarsCompeting in the 2005 North American Solar Challenge

X-15 CFD Images on Postage Stamps

The United States Postal Service (USPS) on March 17, 2007 issued 2 stamps that feature Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) generated images of the North American X-15 rocket plane in flight.

NASA Langley Research Center performed the CFD calculations used to produce the images on the stamps. The aim of the CFD calculations, performed in the 1990s, was to demonstrate the ability to accurately capture geometry using laser digitizing technology for airflow simulation.

North American X-15North American X-15 In FlightImage courtesy of NASA Dryden Flight Research Center Photo Collection

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