Monday, May 07, 2012

Random STEM Question of the Day #3

My current job has my flying a lot. I'm on flights somewhere around 8-10 times a month now. I'm not a huge fan of airports (although there was an interesting segment on NPR this week about a writer being invited to live in one for a week) but I do like airplanes. There's all sorts of great science wrapped up in them. Bernoulli's principle obviously comes to mind since that's what makes them work in the first place.

Last time I was flying we were on a 757 which had a great little touch screen in the back of each seat and you could bring up flight data that included the altitude and exterior temperature. I thought it would be fun to graph that, but I didn't feel like staring at that and recording all the data for a 3 hour flight.

Of course, any time you're flying, there's always the question of how the pilots are minimizing the distance traveled which is flying along a great circle, unless jet streams are involved. But that's not something I'd discuss with students since it's not likely they've had any spherical trig or calculus of variations.

But what would a good question be? I usually have books with me when flying, but I wasn't feeling them last flight, so I picked up their Sky Mag, and in the back was this image:

Over at one of my favorite teacher blogs, dy/dan, he often presents scenarios with the tag WCYDWT? which is an abbreviation for "What Can You Do With This?".

I love the idea and it's one that has motivated a lot of my thinking when it comes to education, and when I see images like the above, there's a lot of good questions that could be asked.

Here's the first one that popped into my mind when I saw this:

The image gives us information about the thrust of an engine as well as the max speed. This can tell you something about the drag the plane is experiencing. Thus, it would seem that there's some information buried in there about how overall efficient the plane is. Which are the most? Which are the least? Does the airline charge more to make up for the inefficiency of those that have more drag?

What questions can you come up with?

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