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Not So Fast, Doc

by and

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Dear Chicago Reader,

Did I miss the retraction for that awful Straight Dope piece a few weeks ago [February 3]? The one where Cecil Adams completely missed the mark regarding the airplane and the treadmill?

I went online, and I am unwilling to pay 15 bucks a month to tell Cecil he is wrong once, when it is unlikely to occur in my lifetime again.

Just for the record. An airplane on a treadmill would not take off. The forward motion of the plane against the treadmill is irrelevant, and so is the motion of the wheels. The wings of a plane work on an airfoil principle. The air above the wings is forced to travel a longer path than the air below, creating a suction effect. This is why airplane models in wind tunnels experience lift, despite the lack of forward motion. Treadmill = no air rushing over wings = no suction = no takeoff.

Very truly yours,

Dr. Alan Molumby

UIC


Cecil Adams replies:

Alan, I admire your having the guts to write a letter like this and include your institutional affiliation. Hopefully the tenure committee, and for that matter the admissions office, won't hold it against you. Since my initial stab at an explanation evidently went wide, see if my second attempt in this week's column comes any closer. If still no go, you might want to check out the discussion on the Straight Dope Message board at www.straightdope.com. (Incidentally, the SDMB costs $15 per year, not per month, if you want to post, but merely reading it is free.) But be assured, regardless of what the treadmill is up to, the plane advances down the runway and takes off.

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