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Lesson Of The Day: The Magnus Effect

What makes a tennis ball move the way it does?
iStockphoto
What makes a tennis ball move the way it does?
iStockphoto

So, just cause it's the sweet space between Christmas and New Year's doesn't mean you can't still learn new, cool things — like physics.

Today's coolness is the Magnus effect, which is all about how spinning, flying things get driven sideways.

You've seen this in the way spin on a tennis ball can make it do crazy things. But it can be used for a lot of things other than sports, including propelling new kinds of "sailing" ships — or even making weird, rotating cylinder airplanes.

So take a few minutes, enjoy this video (courtesy of the The Kids Should See This) and then consider yourself an expert on the Magnus effect.


Adam Frank is a co-founder of the 13.7 blog, an astrophysics professor at the University of Rochester, a book author and a self-described "evangelist of science." You can keep up with more of what Adam is thinking on Facebook and Twitter: @adamfrank4