Misconceptions in Aerodynamics

It is well established that Fluid Dynamics, more specifically aerodynamics, is a very broad and very difficult area. As 2 students who are not really familiar with this field, we still find it very fascinating, but we couldn’t help but notice that some phenomena were explained differently in some textbooks. As I tried to consult more textbooks, it seemed that there were a lot of misconceptions around certain phenomena.

One of those phenomena is surprisingly ‘Lift’. It is a term that is widely known, even to those who are very unfamiliar with the field and due to being so well known, people tend to think it’s a simple phenomenon. However, despite being that well known, the theory behind lift is much more complicated than one might think. For our masters thesis, it is not our goal to explain lift, but rather to simulate its magnitude in certain situations. However, I still find it interesting to know where it all comes from.

For example, if you were to ask someone why a wing is subjected to lift, a very common answer would be ‘because there is a pressure difference between the upper and lower half of the wing’. This is indeed true, but how does this pressure difference come to be and what forces are in play to make this happen.

Doug Mclean wrote a book concerning these common misconceptions called ” Understanding Aerodynamics: Arguing from the Real Physics ” and talks about these issues. However, to get a clear image of which other misconceptions there are, Mr Mclean has given a lecture for the University of Michigan. This lecture can be viewed below.