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Into the Wild Blue Yonder
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Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Credit: Robert Lopez
Source: CK-12 Foundation
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

You’ve probably made paper airplanes. You fold a sheet of paper to resemble an airplane and then just fling it into the air. It seems to fly on its own. Of course, all if its energy actually comes from you. But if you’ve folded the paper correctly, after you let go of the plane it may glide on the air for a while before falling back to the ground.

Amazing But True!

  • Did you know that some real airplanes are like paper airplanes? They are called gliders. They don’t have engines, so like paper airplanes, their energy must come from somewhere else.
  • Credit: ajmexico
    Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajmexico/5479171584
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    In order to get them going, gliders use tow planes to pull them into the air [Figure2]


  • Do you know how real gliders work? Where do they get their energy? And without an engine, how do they stay aloft? Watch this video to find out.

Can You Apply It?

With the video above and links below, learn more about gliders. Then answer the following questions.

  1. How does a glider such as a sailplane gain potential energy?
  2. How does a glider convert the potential energy it gains to kinetic energy?
  3. A glider applies Bernoulli’s law to generate lift. Explain how.
  4. Gliders are constantly descending because of gravity. But some gliders can stay aloft for hours. Explain why.

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Robert Lopez; Source: CK-12 Foundation; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: ajmexico; Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajmexico/5479171584; License: CC BY-NC 3.0


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