Phenomena

Holiday Fluids: Santa’s Aerodynamics

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Today we have some holiday-themed fluid dynamics: visualization of flow around Santa’s sleigh! This is a flowing soap film visualization at a low speed (author Nick Moore has some other speeds as well). Santa’s sleigh is what aerodynamicists call a bluff body–a shape that is not streamlined or aerodynamic–and sheds a complicated wake of vortices. Like any object moving through a fluid, Santa’s sleigh generates drag forces made up of several components. There is viscous drag, which comes from friction between the sleigh’s surface and the fluid, and form drag (or pressure drag), which comes from the shape of the sleigh. That wake full of complicated vortices significantly increases the sleigh’s pressure drag, requiring Rudolph and the other reindeer to provide more thrust to counter the sleigh’s drag. Speaking thereof, the visualization does not take into account the aerodynamics of the reindeer, who, in addition to providing the sleigh’s thrust, would also affect the flowfield upstream of the sleigh. This post is part of this week’s holiday-themed post series. (Video credit: N. Moore)

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