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Drag Coefficient?

IB Subject of Essay: Physics

Student Name: Yuchi (Richard) Zhang

Supervisor Name: Stephen Jacobs

Abstract Word Count: 293

Word Count: 3773

Abstract

This essay discusses the study done to examine the effect a circular cones half-angle has

on the cones drag coefficient. The study involved an experiment that examined the free

fall motion of plaster cones of varying angles in varying fluid media. The cones were

suspended in fluid and released. A 500ml graduated cylinder was used to facilitate the

motion and the increments on the container were used as a scale for the displacement of

the cone. The cones had half-angles ranging from 15to 30, and three different fluid

media were used to explore the consistency of the phenomenon. The cones motion was

filmed and the footage was analyzed by an interval of 2 frames to observe the change in

the cones position. From this, displacement, velocity and acceleration functions were

obtained. Combining this information and the properties of the cone, the drag coefficient

of each cone in each medium was calculated. Since drag coefficient is independent of the

fluid medium, an average of the three values was taken.

The study noticed that calculating drag coefficient using cross-sectional area led to a

negative correlation between half-angle and drag coefficient. This was likely the result of

the low speed of the cone, causing friction between the cone and the fluid to be more

significant than the collisions between the cone and fluid particles. Friction is dependent

on the surface area of the cone. Since increasing half-angle decreases surface area of the

cone, and thus decreases the cones drag, it can be said that there exists a negative

correlation between the cones half-angle and its drag coefficient. However, the

uncertainties in the drag coefficients are too large for a specific relationship between halfangle and Cd to be identified. Therefore, the research finishes with suggesting that more

controlled experiments be done.

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION......................................................................................................................... 1

ASTRONOMICAL AND MILITARIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF DRAG

DYNAMICS OF DRAG

VARIABLES ................................................................................................................................. 2

INDEPENDENT VARIABLE

DEPENDENT VARIABLE

CONTROLLED VARIABLES

HYPOTHESIS............................................................................................................................... 4

APPARATUS ..................................................................................................................................

FABRICATING CONES OF DIFFERENT HALF ANGLES

PREPARATION OF FLUID MEDIA

OTHER MATERIALS

DIAGRAMMATIC SETUP

METHOD ...................................................................................................................................... 6

RESULTS .................................................................................................................................... 10

CONCLUSION ........................................................................................................................... 12

EVALUATION ........................................................................................................................... 13

BIBLIOGRAPHY ....................................................................................................................... 15

APPENDICES ............................................................................................................................. 16

APPENDIX A

APPENDIX B

APPENDIX C

Introduction

The term drag force is often associated with aviation and aerodynamics, fields in which

man has always strived to create faster-moving and more efficient machines. There are

many particularities to why certain aircrafts and submarines are shaped the way they are.

Out of the particularities, a very important one is the machines ability to sustain, or

rather, avoid drag. For example, many contemporary submarines hull takes on a

teardrop shape, having a cone-like head and a narrow and sharp tail, which works to

reduce the hydrodynamic drag. Similar objectives exist in aviation, where drag reduction

is heavily exploited to save fuel and costs. Another example is the atmospheric-entryvehicles of space crafts. Some of the early proposed designs involved wide cones whose

base was meant to face the Earth during re-entry. This idea attempted to create high drag,

in order to maintain a layer of air in front of the vehicle, and reduce the heat load that the

exterior hull must withstand.

With the circumstances and real life implications of drag mentioned above, it can be

concluded that it is physics concept demanding curiosity and worthy of investigation,

especially in the respect of an objects ability to create drag.

Drag Explained:

Drag is a retarding force that acts against an object moving through a mediuma

combination of friction, and the result of the object colliding with particles of the medium.

Therefore drag is always opposite to the direction of motion within the medium.

Drag is also characterized as the rate of change of an objects horizontal momentum (or

in the case of an object performing vertical motion through a medium, the rate of change

of vertical momentum), having the expression:

=

It is important to note that this formula assumes that there are no other forces in the

horizontal direction. Considering drag as a change of momentum helps to visualize some

of the variables involved. As discussed before, an objects shape plays a large role in its

ability to create drag. For example, a wide and flat surface will collide bluntly and

abruptly with the medium, and quickly change the objects velocity. From the formula, it

is evident that change in velocity is directly proportional to drag; and an object like so

would experience high drag. Contrarily, having a curved and sharp surface allows

particles of the medium to move around the object and change its momentum slowly.

However, with equal volume, a sharp object is more likely to take on a longer length than

a blunt object; the increase in surface area (as a result of length) escalates the amount of

friction experienced by the object. To summarize the properties of friction and collision,

a numerical value called drag coefficient (denoted by Cd) is assigned to different shapes

during the calculation of drag force. Another evident variable is the cross-sectional area

of the objectthe larger the area, the more particles that the object must collide with.

Drag, unlike conventional forms of friction, depends on the velocity of the object. This is

also easy to visualize; the faster an object travels, the more energetic the collisions will be,

and hence a greater retarding force is applied to the object. In the calculation of drag, the

speed value is raised to the exponent 2. However, at high speeds, the exponent may need

to be 3.

Lastly, density of the medium must also be taken into account. Combining the variables

and introducing a proportionality constant, the drag equation is presented as:

Fd = V2 Cd A

Variable

Unit

Exponent

Medium density ()

1

m3

Speed (v)

2

Cd

Cross-sectional area

(A)

m3

2

m2

( )(

Final Unit

1

1

m2

)(m * m)

= kg ( )

= kg ()

=N

This equation was first developed by Lord Rayleigh, and is conventionally called

Newtonian Drag where Reynolds Number is greater than 1000. When Reynolds

Number is less 1, Stokes drag takes place. However, with the speed and object size

involved in this experiment, Stokes drag is not applicable.

Variables:

Independent Variable(s):

As stated in the research question, the independent variable of the experiment is the halfangle of the cones that will be dropped in the fluid media. The illustration of the halfangle is shown as:

Fig.1

Image source:

http://math.stackexchange.com/questions/37336

4/what-is-the-right-circular-of-cone-and-what-isthe-right-circular-of-cylinder

The half-angle of the cone is denoted by in the image above. The variation in the

angle can be interpreted as how quickly the cone widens going from its tip to its base, or

in other words, how sharp or blunt the cone is.

having different half-angles, ranging from 15to 30with a consistent interval of

increase of 3.75between consecutive cones.

Dependent Variable(s):

As stated in the research question, the dependent variable is the drag coefficient of the

cones, an intrinsic property of each cone.

Controlled Variables:

1. Release mechanism

A very important controlled variable is the release mechanism of the cones. The cone

is suspended by a string embedded in the cones base. The cone is completely

submerged in the fluid medium and its tip is made sure to be below the first

observable increment of the container (graduated cylinder). This eliminates any phase

change of the cones motion and ensures that its motion can be numerically evaluated

throughout its entire duration. The cone is released by releasing the string. In the case

of shorter cones, which have a tendency to oscillate horizontally in the fluid medium,

the string is twisted clockwise so that when the cone is suspended, it acquires counter

clockwise rotation. The rotation provides an angular momentum for the cone, and

stabilizes it.

A consistent release mechanism ensures that all cones have the same conditions of

motion (i.e. initial velocity, orientation of the cone, absence of phase change, etc.)

upon release.

2. Temperature

The experiment is performed in a short period of time (i.e. 1 hour) at a room

temperature of 20to avoid any significant fluctuations in the temperature of the fluid

media. Temperature changes in the fluid media can affect their densities and create

inconsistency between trials.

3. Distance of camera from container of fluid

Since the motion of the cone is filmed using a stationary video camera, parallax error

is unavoidable. However, the camera is kept at a constant 70cm from the container to

create a small subtended angle (approximately 10) and minimize the effect of the

parallax error. The camera is also on maximum zoom to clearly view the motion of

the cone.

4. Container

The container facilitating the motion of the cone is a 500ml graduated cylinder with

equal increments of 5ml. The container is not varied as to ensure consistent position

readings of the cone.

The cross-sectional area of the cone is kept constant for simplicity reasons and to

more effectively study the effect of variation of the cones half angle, and half-angle

only. The radius of the cones base is 2cm.

6. Type of fluid medium

To test the reproducibility and validity of the drag equation, the experiment is

performed in 3 different fluid mediawater, rubbing alcohol (70% isopropyl alcohol),

and 20% saturation sucrose solution. Between trials of different cone, the fluid

medium is not changed. Only after all cones are tested for one medium, another

medium is then tested.

Hypothesis

As the cones half-angle increases, it will experience more abrupt changes in its vertical

momentum, as the cone becomes more blunt and the collisions become more head-on.

Considering that the medium exerts a normal force on the surface of the cone, which

contains a component along the direction of the cones motion and another component

perpendicular to it. As the half-angle increases, the parallel component increases as it is

characterized by FNsin, and the sine function is an increasing one from 0 to . Therefore,

it can be expected that a positive correlation exists between half-angle and Cd.

Apparatus

Fabricating Cones of Different Half-Angles

The cones are made using Burma Latex Casting Plaster. The plaster powder is mixed

with water at a ratio of 1:1. The mixture is stirred to achieve a thick and consistent texture.

The moulds cone-shaped paper shells of different dimensions. Two moulds of the same

dimensions are made, and one is placed inside another to add to the structural integrity of

the mould.

A small portion of the plaster mixture is first poured into the mould, then a small metal

bolt is embedded into the plaster to act as a stabilizing anchor. The rest of the mould is

then filled with the plaster mixture, up to the rim. The moulds are then lightly shaken to

flatten out the top, and a ruler is used to scrape away any plaster above the mould. Finally,

a piece of string is embedded into the centre of the cones base. The plaster is left to dry

overnight. The paper mould is then removed, and the cones are again left to dry

completely over the next 2 days.

The paper moulds are made out of construction paper, which are cut into fan-shaped arcs,

and are then shaped and glued into hollow conical shells. The dimensions of the arcs are

as follows:

Half-Angle of

Cone/

15

18.75

22.5

26.25

30

of

Arc/rad

1.63

2.02

2.40

2.78

3.14

Radius of

Arc*/cm

7.73

6.22

5.23

4.52

4.00

Arc

Length**/cm

12.57

12.57

12.57

12.57

12.57

Arc

Area***/cm2

48.7

39.1

32.8

28.4

25.1

**Arc length becomes the circumference of the base of the cone.

***Arc area becomes the surface area of the cone

Fluid

Water

70% Isopropyl Alcohol

Volume/ml

600

600

600

Source

tap water

rubbing alcohol available at local

pharmacies

made by dissolving 240g of sucrose

in 600ml of water

Other Materials

500ml graduated cylinder (capacity: approximately 700ml, uncertainty: 2.5ml)

Sony Nex-5N Camera (able to produce videos of 60 frames per second)

Diagrammatic Setup

Fig.2

Fig.3

15half-angle

17.75

22.5

26.25

30

500ml Graduated

Cylinder

Camera

70cm

Method

The cone of 15half-angle is first submerged in water for approximately 5 minutes. This

is allows the air within the plaster to escape and the microscopic holes in the plaster be

filled with water. This ensures that the cone does not change its mass during the

experiment.

The camera is placed at its earlier mentioned position and begins videotaping.

The cone is held by the string, and lowered into the graduated cylinder filled with water.

The cone is suspended until it stops moving inside the medium. The cone is then released

by letting go of the string. Once the cone has fallen to the bottom of the graduated

cylinder, it is retrieved by pulling the string upwards until the cone is at its original

position.

Once the cone has stopped moving, it is released again. This procedure is performed a

total of 5 times to ensure consistency. If the cone oscillates significantly within the

medium, more trials need to be performed until a total of 5 non-oscillating (or small

degree of oscillation) trials are achieved. After doing so, the camera stops filming.

The above procedure is repeated with cones of half-angles 18.75, 22.5, 26.25, and 30.

The above procedure is repeated with 70% isopropyl alcohol and the sucrose solution

previously made.

In the case of shorter cones, such as ones with a half-angle of 26.25and 30, the string is

first twisted before lowering the cone into the fluid medium. The cone is then suspended

to gain a small amount of rotational speed. The cone is then released. Upon retrieval, the

string is twisted again.

Results

As a result of the fabrication method, the base of the cones resembles ellipses more than

circles. Therefore, the cone tip angle is measured once along the major axis of the ellipse,

and once along the minor axis. It is evident that the tip angle varies as rotating around the

cone. This method finds the two extremes of the variation; and an average of the two is

taken. The uncertainty of this measurement is half of the difference of the two extreme

angles.

A similar method is used to find the cross-sectional area of the cones. The diameter of the

base is measured along both the major and minor axis. Two areas are calculated, and an

average is taken.

Example Calculation:

15half-angle cone:

dmax = 4.15cm, dmin = 3.95cm

Amax = (4.15cm/2)2

= 13.5cm2

Amin = (3.95cm/2)2

= 12.3cm2

2

2

Aavg = (13.0cm + 11.9cm )/2 = 12.9cm2, =(13.0cm2 11.9cm2)/2 = 0.6cm2

The cones volume is measured using an overflow can. Upon introducing the cone to the

can, water overflows from the can is collected in a graduated cylinder. The volume of the

water collected is the volume of the cone. The can contains a short and small protruding

tube that allows water to overflow. Due to the small diameter of the tube, the surface

tension of water may actually prevent a small amount of water from overflowing.

Therefore, the uncertainty of the volume measurement takes this into account as well as

the uncertainty of the graduated cylinder.

The fluids density is obtained by measuring a small sample of the fluids mass and

volume. The following is a sample calculation of the density of one of the cones.

Calculating fluid density uses the identical formula.

= ( +

Example Calculation:

31tip angle cone:

0.005

= (54.190 +

13

323

Cone Tip

Mass/g

Volume/cm3

Density/g

Cross-Sectional

Angle/c 2

0.005g

31

54.190

39

43.700

43

37.740

52

32.790

59

28.700

Fluid Medium

Water

70% Isopropyl Alcohol

20% Saturated Sucrose Solution

1cm3

32

26

22

18

15

cm-3

Area/cm2

1.70 0.05

12.9 0.6

1.71 0.07

13.2 0.6

1.74 0.08

13.2 0.6

1.8 0.1

12.9 0.3

1.9 0.1

12.6 0.1

-3

Density/g cm

1.00

0.87 0.01

1.09 0.01

The motion footage is analysed from the moment of release to half a second after release.

The position of the cones tip is measured using the increments on the graduated cylinder.

The footage is played frame by frame, and a measurement of volume position is taken

every 2 frames. Since the camera produces videos of 60 frames per second, 15 readings

are taken in half a second. The cones volume positions are subtracted from its original

position of release to obtain volume displacement values. The displacements acquired

from the five trials are averaged to produce a more consistent set of values (see Appendix

A). The volume displacement is then converted to linear displacement. The displacement

is graphed against time to produce a displacement vs. time graph,(see Appendix B)

from which a polynomial function is obtained (by Excel) that characterizes the curve of

best fit. The first and second order derivatives of the function are performed to produce

velocity and acceleration functions (see Appendix B).

Increment length =

0 500

)(increment length)

Example Calculation:

15Half-Angle Cone at 0.30s

Volume displacement = 73ml 5ml, since volume displacement comes from a

subtraction of two volume readings, therefore its uncertainty is 2 times half of the

smallest increment of the cylinder, or in other words, 1 full increment

1

1

L.D. = 73ml ( 5 )(0.254cm/incre.)( 100)

= 0.037m

L.D. = ( +

0.001/.

= (0.254/. +

5

73

..

.

)L.D.

) 0.037m

0.003m

In fact, due to the size of the displacements and the uncertainties of volume

displacement and increment length, virtually all displacement values have an

uncertainty of 0.003m.

The frame rate is moderate, and in fact allows for identifying the exact frame at which the

string is released. Therefore, uncertainties in time are negligible.

Since drag is directly proportional to the square of velocity according to the drag equation,

a linear graph can be constructed between the two variables using the equations of motion

derived.

Ftotal(t) = ma(t), where a(t) = Pt4 + Qt3 + Rt2 + St + U,

and Ftotal(t) = mg Buoyancy drag(t),

where Buoyancy = Vcone x medium x g

B + Drag

Fig.4

Fd

The terminal velocity reached by each cone has no uncertainty. This is because the

graduated cylinder can be considered to be infinitely long. The analysis only examines an

arbitrarily chosen duration of motion (i.e. 0.5s). However, the motion is theoretically

infinitely long in both distance and duration. Terminal velocity is directly proportional to

displacement and inversely proportional to time (since acceleration is 0). It has been

established that time has no uncertainty, and the relative uncertainty of displacement

would tend to 0, since it involves dividing by infinity. Therefore, the relative uncertainty

of terminal velocity is also 0.

Example calculation:

The uncertainties in velocity and acceleration are calculated by constructing a

displacement vs. time graph using the top each error bar and another graph using

the bottom of each error bar. Functions of the graphs are obtained using Excel, and

derived to give velocity and acceleration functions. This method eliminates sudden

local fluctuations in velocity and acceleration, as they would suggest an abrupt

change in force, which is illogical.

Cone: 15half-angle; Medium: water; Time: 0.05s, 0.20s

[v(0.05)]2 = 0.0030 m2s-2, [v(0.20)]2 = 0.0284 m2s-2

a(0.05) = 1.25 ms-2, a(0.20) = 0.198ms-2

1

1

drag(0.05) =54.190g ( 1000) 9.81ms-2 - 54.190g ( 1000) 1.25ms-2 32cm3

13

drag(0.05) = 0.152N

(0.05) =

1.512 0.802

drag(0.05) = (m)g + ( +

2

(0.05)

(0.05)

= 0.36ms-2

)m[a(0.05)] + ( +

)Vg

, ,

0.362

11063

drag(0.05) 0.0289N

[v(0.05)max]2 = 0.00719m2s-2, [v(0.05)min]2 = 0.000841m2s-2

(. ) =

0.0071922 0.00084122

2

= 0.00317m2s-2

1

13

drag(0.20) = 0.218N

a(0.20)max = 0.257ms-2, a(0.20)min = 0.205ms-2

(0.20) =

0.2572 0.2052

= 0.026ms-2

drag(0.20) 0.026ms-2(5.419x10-2kg) + 1x10-6m3(1000kg m-3)(9.81ms-2)

drag(0.20) 0.0112N

2

(. ) =

0.029222 0.026122

2

= 0.00157m2s-2

This calculation can be repeated with 0.10s, 0.15s, 0.40s, and a relationship between

drag and v2 can be graphed, where k is the proportionality constant. The left and

rightmost data points are chosen in order to show how the uncertainties are

propagated in finding k. Values of 0.20s are chosen instead of those of 0.40s since

the cone has reached terminal velocity at 0.40s, and its uncertainty of v2 is 0.

k = 2.45 in particular case.

k =

=[

(0.20) (0.05)

2(0.20) 2(0.05)

2

(0.20) (0.05)

2(0.20) 2(0.05)

= (5.18 0.86)/2

k = 2.16

1

k = 2ACd

]/2

Cd =

Cd = ( +

)Cd

The relative uncertainty of area and that of density is negligible compared to the

very large relative uncertainty of k, and are therefore ignored.

Table 3: Proportionality Constant and Drag Coefficient for Cones of Different HalfAngles in Different Fluid Media

Halfk in

k in

k in

Cd in

Cd in

Cd in

Average

Angle/ Water Alcohol Sucrose

Water

Alcohol

Sucrose

Cd

Solution

Solution

15

2.45 4.26

4.24

3.80

7.56

6.03

5.80

2.16

3.03

9.44

3.35

5.38

13.43

7.39

17.75

3.20 3.10

3.68

4.84

5.38

5.11

5.11

2.07

2.24

4.06

3.13

3.89

5.64

4.22

22.5

2.59 3.12

3.52

3.92

5.41

4.88

4.74

2.49

2.39

4.73

3.77

4.41

6.56

4.91

26.25

2.23 3.46

4.04

3.45

6.15

5.74

5.11

2.35

3.41

8.25

3.64

6.06

11.72

7.14

30

2.38 2.13

2.42

3.78

3.86

3.52

3.72

1.91

0.09

3.62

3.03

0.16

5.27

2.82

Cones and their Drag Coefficients

Cd

14

12

10

8

6

4

2

0

0

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

sin

0.6

Though the size of the uncertainty may allow a positive correlation to be formed between

the half-angle and Cd, the slope of line of best fit contradicts the initial theories.

Therefore, a different approach attempted to calculate Cdby using the surface area of

the cone (excluding the area of the base), rather than the cross-sectional area. The surface

area is in fact the arc area mentioned earlier in the Apparatus section on page 5. The

(relative) uncertainty of surface area is very small, in fact smaller than that of the crosssectional area. This is because regardless of the degree to which the cones base changes

from an ideal circle to an ellipse (which alters the cross-sectional area), the surface area

remains constant. Therefore, the uncertainty in surface area only results from the

uncertainties of the dimensions of the paper arc, which is again, very minute, and

therefore ignored. The newly calculated coefficients are labeled Cd and are as follows:

Table 4: Drag Coefficient (Calculated Using Surface Area) of Cones of Different HalfAngles in Fluid Media

Half-Angle/

Cd in

Cd in

Cd in Sucrose Solution

Average Cd

1

Water

Alcohol

16

1.01 0.89 2.00 1.42

1.60 3.56

1.54 1.96

20

1.64 1.06 1.81 1.31

1.72 1.90

1.72 1.42

22

1.58 1.52 2.18 1.67

1.96 2.63

1.91 1.94

26

1.59 1.68 2.79 2.75

2.61 5.33

2.33 3.25

30

1.90 1.52 1.94 0.08

1.76 2.63

1.87 1.41

Cd'

Cones with Constant Radius and their Drag Coefficients

(Calculated using Surface Area)

6

5

4

3

2

1

0

0

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

0.6

sin

this case, the sine function.

Analysis

From the graphs of drag vs. v2 in Appendix C, it can be seen that the two variables are

not directly proportional (i.e. the existence of a y-intercept). This is not predicted by the

drag equation. A possible cause is that the calculation of drag lets it be responsible for

more than just the actual drag force. In other words, other retarding forces are in effect,

but are simply grouped together with drag, instead of being examined separately. These

other forces may include the drag of the string attached to the cone, or the influence of

the cone hitting the walls of the graduated cylinder and oscillating horizontally within the

medium. All of which, are not (significantly) related to the cones velocity. The yintercept also suggests that there is a retarding force even when the cones velocity is 0.

A possible explanation is that during release of the cone, the fingers holding the string are

not taken away instantaneously as can be observed in the video footage, and interactions

between the string and human skin may have contributed to this phenomenon.

From graphs in Appendix C: dragcalculated = kv2 + y-int

dragcalculated y-int = kv2

If it can be assumed that Fretarding exclu. drag is roughly equivalent to y-int, then the k value

still gives a good estimate of the proportionality constant between dragactual and v2.

The significant uncertainty of k resulted an equally significant uncertainty in drag

coefficients (since the two are directly proportional). The large uncertainties result from

the method of calculations of uncertainties in velocity and acceleration. These two

functions are obtained from taking derivatives, rather than from measurements. It is very

possible that the initial model of displacement vs. time is not accurate, since it is

produced by Excel. Linearizing the graph is particularly difficult, as the model is likely to

be a polynomial, instead of a simple exponential or logarithmic function. Also, one

increment of the graduated cylinder is considerably large compared to some of the initial

volume displacements (i.e. displacements between 0s and 0.100s). Therefore, certain

relative uncertainties of displacement are well above 100%. This makes it difficult to

predict an exact relationship between Cd and half-angle, as virtually any function can fit

within the error bars of Graph 1 and Graph 2 (ex. exponential, polynomial, segments of

trigonometric functions, etc.).

It is possible that at such low speeds (of around 0.25m/s), the more significant contributor

to drag is the friction between the surface of the cone and the medium, rather than the

collisions between the cone and the fluid particles. This may be because the low speed

causes the collisions to be not energetic enough to out-compete friction. And this works

to explain the trends in the graphs.

The drag equation only requires a reference area. Changing the type of area used

simply changes the parameter of the drag coefficient calculated. Therefore, the same

object can have multiple drag coefficients depending on the area used in calculation. If

drag is considered to be a form of friction, the logical choice of reference area is the

surface area of the cone. Hence, the larger the surface area of an object, the more able it

is at creating frictional drag.

In reality, dividing by reference area simply removes the effect of variations of reference

area. Thus, in plain English, Graph 1 makes the claim that when dealing with cones of

constant cross-sectional area but varying half-angles, drag coefficient and half-angle have

a negative correlation. While Graph 2 makes the claim that when dealing with cones of

constant surface area but varying half-angles, drag coefficient and half-angle have a

positive correlation. The two claims do not contradict each other, and both claims are

only valid under low speed conditions. To further clarify, since drag is comprised of both

friction and resistance, therefore increasing either one of the component will increase the

overall drag. Given cones of constant cross-sectional area, decreasing the half-angle

increases surface area, and thus increases friction, and thus drag. However, one may

argue that doing so also decreases resistance. But it has been originally said at low speeds,

friction out-competes resistance. Given cones of constant surface area (and hence

constant friction), decreasing half-angle decreases the component of normal force parallel

to the direction of motion, and thus decreases resistance, and thus drag.

In fact, Graph 2s claim is the initial hypothesis (and likely comes from the same theories

mentioned in the hypothesis), with an added restriction of having constant surface area.

This added parameter is necessary, since in this experiment, consecutive cones had

increasing half-angles, but decreasing surface areatwo actions that counteract each

other.

Another problem that arised is the large discrepancy between the coefficients calculated

and the coefficients sharp-nosed objects mentioned in literature1 (around 0.5).

Conveniently, the error bars do allow both Cd and Cd to reach values around 0.5.

However, it is also safe to say that the literature values are much more ideal, used in

aerodynamics, and likely does not involve such low speeds. Since drag coefficients are

purely empirical, therefore the discrepancies do not undermine the validity of the

coefficients calculated in the specific settings of this particular experiment.

Conclusion

To address the research question, it can be concluded that changing the half-angle of a

cone works to change both its surface area and shape, which changes the friction and

resistance produced by the cone, respectively. Since at low speeds, friction contributes to

drag more significantly than resistance does, it can be said that in general, increasing

half-angle decreases the drag coefficient, hence a negative correlation exists. Because

increasing half-angle decreases surface area, and thus decreases friction. However, the

uncertainties involved with the coefficients allow a variety of relationships be proposed

to exist between the two variables. Therefore, more research using more cones of

different angles (but constant cross-sectional area) and using a more controlled method

should be done to identify the exact relationship.

Evaluation

Limitations:

Velocity and acceleration are derived rather than measured. The suitability of the

curve-of-best-fit-function for the displacement vs. time graph is questionable, and

inaccuracies are propagated during differentiation and renders velocity and

acceleration inaccurate as well.

1

http://www.braeunig.us/space/cd.htm

Parallax error exists since the camera is stationary, hence inaccurate position

readings.

Cones hit the wall of the graduated cylinder, which exerted uncalculatable normal

force and friction to the cones, making the drag calculated inaccurate.

Cone oscillates within the medium. This is makes position readings difficult as

the tip of the cone travels in a Bessel-function- like pattern rather than a straight

line. Also, the medium exerts uncalculatable influences on the cones velocity and

acceleration.

Cones are not perfectly circular and have ununiformed surfaces. Inconsistencies

between cones exert uncalculatable influences and render the experiment less

controlled.

String attached to the cone creates drag of its own, which works to retard the cone,

and makes the drag calculated inaccurate.

Release of cone is not instantaneous. Human skin retards the cone at the instant of

release.

Improvements:

Measure velocity and acceleration using a motion sensor, which takes advantage

of Doppler Effect.

Use a wider tube to facilitate the motion. This avoids the cone from hitting the

walls, or at least delays this effect and ideally allows it to happen after terminal

velocity is reached.

Create finer cones using plastic moulds which eliminate paper residue and prevent

the base of the cone from transforming from circle to ellipse. Oscillation is largely

unavoidable, and can only be minimized.

Eliminate the use of string. Release the cone with a rigid object (i.e. tweezers),

which eliminates any lingering interactions between the cone and the release

mechanism upon release (i.e. human skin takes time to deform while tweezers do

not).

Bibliography

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stokes'_law

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Submarine

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_entry

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drag_(physics)

http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/BGH/reynolds.html

https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/airplane/dragco.html