21 May, 2009

Story of Toaster: Self Experimentation #2

[Neither Toaster nor Hammer endorse trying this at home.]

Looking back at this, I can fully admit how absolutely stupid it was to try. This stupidity was compounded by collaboration with my good friend, whom we shall here refer to as Hammer Fishplate, that endangered both of our lives. In our defense, it should be noted that we were 16-year-old boys with a car, so perhaps stupidity was entirely unavoidable. But at least it was stupidity in the Name of Science!

Our hometown was completely dominated by aviation, and as such we grew up well aware of the principles of Bernoulli and aerodynamics (our middle school even had a wind tunnel). So one night after having lost the competition to see who could push my car the fastest, I proposed that we try steering said car by altering its aerodynamic profile by using the car doors as ailerons*.

So we got some tacos and thought about it.

Since we couldn't come up with any good reasons not to try this, we conducted the experiment. We rolled up all the windows in my car and went to the straightest, widest stretch of local branch of the interstate highway. It was well past midnight so there was absolutely no traffic. Hammer was in the passenger seat while I drove. I floored the car and got it up to 38m/s (since we had reasoned the effects would be negligible at lower velocities). Then Hammer pushed his car door open while I held the steering wheel straight. The car veered gently left! SUCCESS! So then he let his door get slammed shut by the wind and leaned over to grab the wheel while I pushed my own door open (this is difficult to do at 38m/s). Sure enough, the car veered right! DOUBLE SUCCESS!!!

The natural extension of this was to see if we could steer the car productively by this method. There was a large bend coming up in the highway branch, so we gamely took it on and sure enough: it's manageable, if difficult. We wound up drifting across several empty lanes and coming rather close to the concrete median, but we made it nonetheless.

Later on we tried a negative control and repeated the experiment at a much lower velocity (8m/s). It didn't work at all and I'm fairly sure the gas station attendant didn't much appreciate our quest for Science.

Conclusion: yes, car doors may be used as ailerons, but only at sufficiently high velocities.

[Neither Toaster nor Hammer endorse trying this at home.]

Relevant: Story of Toaster: Self Experimentation #1

1 comment:

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

That's not so much self-experimentation as (wait for it) auto-experimentation.