The Perse School

How wings work – Sixth Form trip to Cambridge Physics Centre

Last week, over 40 sixth form Physics students attended a Cambridge Physics Centre lecture entitled “How wings work” given by Professor Holger Babinsky from the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge.  After dispelling myths commonly used to explain lift such as the equal time principle, pupils learnt about the Bernouilli effect and how a pressure gradient arising from curved streamlines, giving lower pressure above the wing and higher pressure beneath, actually explains lift.  Professor Babinsky then demonstrated the application of this physics to more complex problems, including how planes can fly upside down, sailing, and the Magnus effect, better known for allowing footballers to bend a football into the net.  With his enthusiasm and engaging demonstrations which included firing ping pong balls at the audience and bending the blast from a hairdryer with a bin to blow out a candle, we were enthralled and educated.

In case the lecture was not enough, before the lecture the students had a tour of  some working physics labs belonging to the Surface Physics group and after the lecture we filled most of a curry house to eat and discuss life, the Universe and everything.  The evening was a great success and we hope to repeat the format next term.

Professor Babinsky has released a short one minute video to demonstrate just how wings lift, something which is widely misunderstood. Visit the University of Cambridge research website to find out more about this exciting research project.

Video courtesy of University of Cambridge.

Physics lecture


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