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How Does the Half Angle of a Circular Cone Affect its

Drag Coefficient?

Session: May 2014


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

A dimensional analysis can be performed to verify the formula.


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.

In this particular experiment, half-angle will be varied by fabricating 5 cones, each


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.

5. Cross-sectional area of 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

*Radius of arc becomes the slant of the cone.


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

Preparation of Fluid Media


Fluid
Water
70% Isopropyl Alcohol

Volume/ml
600
600

20% Saturated Sucrose Solution

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

) 1.70 g cm-3 0.05 g cm-3

323

Table 1: Specifications of Cones and Fluid Media


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

= 0.254 cm/incre. 0.001 cm/incre.

Linear Displacement = (volume displacement)(

)(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.

V(t)2 = (At5 + Bt4 + Ct3 + Dt2 + Et + F)2


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

drag(t) = mg ma(t) Vcone x medium x g = kv(t)2


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

(1,000,0003)1000kg m-3 x 9.81ms-2

drag(0.05) = 0.152N

a(0.05)max = 1.51ms-2, a(0.05)min = 0.80ms-2


(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

1.252(5.419x10-2kg)(1.25ms-2) + 3.21053(3.2x10-5m3)(1000kg m-3)(9.81ms2)

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

drag(0.20) =54.190g ( 1000) 9.81ms-2 - 54.190g ( 1000) 0.198ms-2 32cm3


13

(1,000,0003)1000kg m-3 x 9.81ms-2

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

[v(0.20)max]2 = 0.0292m2s-2, [v(0.20)min]2 = 0.0261m2s-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

Graph 1: Relationship between Half-Angle of Circular


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'

Graph 2: Relationship between Half-Angle of Circular


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

A increasing (from 0 to ) trigonometric function is arbitrarily chosen as the x-axisin


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.

dragactual = dragcalculated - Fretarding exclu. drag


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