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This 5-minute video explains how modern sailboats move forward by generating lift. The video explores the aerodynamic forces generated by two parts of the sailboat: the sails and the keel. These forces, when properly adjusted by the sailor, counteract each other to generate forward movement.

Editor's Note: Old World sailboats relied on wind to push them forward. Modern sailboats are much more complicated, and offer a great opportunity to explore Bernoulli's Principle, lift, and drag. See Related Materials for a teaching module on the physics of sailing and an article from "Physics Central" that explains how to sail faster than the wind speed.

Teachers' Domain is an NSF-funded pathway of the National Science Digital Library (NSDL).  It is a growing collection of videos, lessons, and activities compiled by researchers and experienced teachers to promote the use of digital resources in the classroom.

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Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Newton's Second Law
= Force, Acceleration
- Newton's Third Law
= Action/Reaction
Fluid Mechanics
- Dynamics of Fluids
= Bernoulli Force
- High School
- Middle School
- Informal Education
- Instructional Material
= Activity
- Audio/Visual
= Movie/Animation
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Activity
- New teachers
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Intended Users:
General Public
Access Rights:
Free access
© 2004 KQED Public Media
Bernoulli, drag, dynamics, lift force, sailboat dynamics, sailboats, thrust
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created October 1, 2011 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
October 11, 2015 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
September 30, 2010

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4F. Motion
  • 6-8: 4F/M3a. An unbalanced force acting on an object changes its speed or direction of motion, or both.
  • 9-12: 4F/H4. Whenever one thing exerts a force on another, an equal amount of force is exerted back on it.

8. The Designed World

8B. Materials and Manufacturing
  • 9-12: 8B/H1. Manufacturing processes have been changed by improved tools and techniques based on more thorough scientific understanding, increases in the forces that can be applied and the temperatures that can be reached, and the availability of electronic controls that make operations occur more rapidly and consistently.
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Record Link
AIP Format
(KQED Public Media, San Francisco, 2004), WWW Document, (http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/kqed09.sci.phys.maf.kqedsailing/the-physics-of-sailing/).
PBS Learning Media: The Physics of Sailing, (KQED Public Media, San Francisco, 2004), <http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/kqed09.sci.phys.maf.kqedsailing/the-physics-of-sailing/>.
APA Format
PBS Learning Media: The Physics of Sailing. (2010, September 30). Retrieved January 21, 2017, from KQED Public Media: http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/kqed09.sci.phys.maf.kqedsailing/the-physics-of-sailing/
Chicago Format
KQED Public Media. PBS Learning Media: The Physics of Sailing. San Francisco: KQED Public Media, September 30, 2010. http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/kqed09.sci.phys.maf.kqedsailing/the-physics-of-sailing/ (accessed 21 January 2017).
MLA Format
PBS Learning Media: The Physics of Sailing. San Francisco: KQED Public Media, 2004. 30 Sep. 2010. 21 Jan. 2017 <http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/kqed09.sci.phys.maf.kqedsailing/the-physics-of-sailing/>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {PBS Learning Media: The Physics of Sailing}, Publisher = {KQED Public Media}, Volume = {2017}, Number = {21 January 2017}, Month = {September 30, 2010}, Year = {2004} }
Refer Export Format

%T PBS Learning Media: The Physics of Sailing
%D September 30, 2010
%I KQED Public Media
%C San Francisco
%U http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/kqed09.sci.phys.maf.kqedsailing/the-physics-of-sailing/
%O video/quicktime

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D September 30, 2010
%T PBS Learning Media: The Physics of Sailing
%I KQED Public Media
%V 2017
%N 21 January 2017
%8 September 30, 2010
%9 video/quicktime
%U http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/kqed09.sci.phys.maf.kqedsailing/the-physics-of-sailing/

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Citation Source Information

The AIP Style presented is based on information from the AIP Style Manual.

The APA Style presented is based on information from APA Style.org: Electronic References.

The Chicago Style presented is based on information from Examples of Chicago-Style Documentation.

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PBS Learning Media: The Physics of Sailing:

Covers the Same Topic As Physclips: The Physics of Sailing

This resource from Physclips provides in-depth content support on the topic of sailboat dynamics.

relation by Caroline Hall
Supplements TryEngineering: Sail Away

A classroom activity for grades 6-10 in which students construct, test, and reconfigure a model sailboat that will hold a set weight, harness wind energy from a fan, and move one meter.

relation by Caroline Hall
Covers the Same Topic As Teach Engineering: May the Force Be With You - Lift

A 50-minute lesson for Grades 5-7 on how airplane wings are designed, using Bernoulli's Principle to create lift.

relation by Caroline Hall

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