Phenomena

Aerodynamics with Bill Nye and Samuel L. Jackson

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Bill Nye, Samuel Jackson, golf balls, Reynolds number, dimples, and boundary layers. It doesn’t get much better than this. – Khristopher O (submitter)

It definitely beats Jackson’s other foray into aerodynamics! The dimples on a golf ball cause turbulent boundary layers, which actually decrease drag on the ball and make it fly farther. Why bluff bodies experience a reduction in drag as speed (and thus Reynolds number) increases was a matter of great confusion for fluid mechanicians early in the twentieth century, but it’s not too hard to see why it happens with some flow visualization.

On the top sphere, the laminar boundary layer separates from the sphere just past its shoulder. This results in a pressure loss on the backside of the sphere and, thus, an increase in drag. On the bottom sphere, a trip-wire placed just before the shoulder causes a turbulent boundary layer, which separates from the sphere farther along the backside. This late separation results in a thinner wake and a smaller pressure loss behind the sphere, thereby reducing the overall drag when compared to the laminar case. (Photo credit: An Album of Fluid Motion)

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