History

The Skipping Dambusters

During World War II, the Allies developed “dambuster” bombs that skipped repeatedly off the surface of the water before striking their target. The goal was to cleverly bypass their enemies’ defenses both above and below the surface. Although the original dambusters used spinning spheres, the ricochet physics works for many other configurations as well; essentially, the physics are identical to rock-skipping. Conventional bullets can also skip off the water, though the required angle for skipping depends strongly on the shape of the bullet. If the geometry of the bullet impact doesn’t generate enough hydrodynamic lift, there will be no skip. (Image credit: Barnes Wallis Foundation, source; research credit: V. Murali and S. Naik, pdf; submitted by Marc A.)

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