How Tennis Balls Work

Have you ever wondered why a tennis ball flies through the air so much better than a plastic ball from a ball pit? It’s not just a coincidence, it has to do with simple aerodynamics. When an object moves through the air, vortexes move over the surface of it and eventually break contact.

Tennis ball in a wind tunnel (NASA)

Without any kind of friction, the airflow will want to separate from a ball sooner. However, when you rough up the surface, the vortexes will resist separation for longer. So with the case of tennis balls, the fuzzy outside fibers allow the air to stick to the surface longer.

So making the surface of the tennis ball rougher and inducing drag actually reduces the overall drag on the surface. This helps it go through the air as well as it does. So because of this aerodynamic idea of turbulence, tennis balls work the way they do.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

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About mcjonesqwe

I'm an aviation student at Eastern Kentucky University. I love flying and learning about aviation. I'm from Louisville, Kentucky and I'm staying on campus in Richmond for school. I'm on the GlobalAir.com scholarship blog team and logging my flight training on Chasing FL180.
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