STREAMLINING MAKES A BIG DIFFERENCE: Air resistance is also a huge problem for automotive engineers. In the trucking industry, with enormous vehicles hauling enormous loads, aerodynamics issues have long taken a back seat in design. Now, with concerns over fuel prices and environmental impacts increasing, engineers are attempting to tweak truck cabs and trailers in hopes of reducing the air resistance and, consequently, the amount of fuel consumed. It is even more important for NASCAR, as races can be decided by fractions of a second, and every last bit of power lost to friction is costly.
WHAT IS TURBULENCE? Air is a gas and water is a liquid, but scientists lump both into the category of fluids. A material is considered a fluid if the amount of force needed to change its shape is dependent on how quickly it changes. Turbulence is what happens when the flow of air experiences a sudden change in wind speed or direction. This makes it bumpy instead of smooth. We can see turbulent flow in rivers and streams, or even when we stir cream into our morning cup of coffee. And most of us have experienced mild turbulence while flying in an airplane; the plane is flying through a "sea" of air, and sometimes the "waves" are choppy. A turbulent flow of air results in more drag, and more energy lost.
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.-USA, the American Physical Society, the American Mathematical Society and the Mathematical Association of America contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.