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A wind-powered car that appears to defy physics

[June 12, 2021: Josh Shavit]

I’m hardly a science man, but I’ve been around cars enough to learn a thing or two about objects in motion. One thing I know for a fact is that wind can’t ever push you faster than it is going. I mean, you can tack a sailboat and technically go faster than your tailwind, but that’s basically flying along a horizontal plane. Whatever, physics is weird and I barely understand regular math. Thankfully the Veritasium channel on YouTube is here to help us understand things a bit better.

In a recent video, Veritasium’s Derek Muller headed out to the famed El Mirage dry lake bed to try to do something lots of scienticians have said was impossible for ages. The Blackbird three-wheeler (they call it a 'propeller craft') was built specifically to bring practical science to a theoretical. Is it possible for the wind to push something faster than it itself is moving? The team of Rick and Neil, who built the car, believed it was possible and set out to prove it.

You can easily see the massive big twin-blade turbine at the rear but there's a lot more going on underneath the minimalist bodywork. The wind-fuelled turbine gets the car moving and then the wheels turn a sprocket, which then pulls a chain, which then feeds back mechanical energy to the turbine, providing forward thrust.


In the video below, you can see that the vehicle is using windpower twice. Once, by simply using windpower to move downwind, and then once more because the propeller works as a fan, hitting air molecules, pushing them backwards and generating extra thrust. The question remains: can this vehicle break physics? Probably. Or probably that's just called 'cheating'. But whatever, it's fun.


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