Monday, March 09, 2015

Adrian Newey and the bar-headed goose

The April edition of Motorsport Magazine contains a fabulous F1 season preview from Mark Hughes, which includes the news that Adrian Newey has recently been taking a break in the Himalayas.

Now, whilst it's likely that the principal purpose of this expedition was to enlighten the Dalai Lama on the importance of using large-eddy simulation to understand the interaction of brake-duct winglets with the spat vortex, it's also possible that Adrian was drawn by the legendary bi-annual migration of the bar-headed goose.


These birds are amongst the highest-flying in the world, and travel across the Himalayas in a single day. William Bryant Logan claims in Air: Restless Shaper of the World (2012), that "the bar-headed goose has been recorded at altitudes of over thirty-three thousand feet. This is the altitude where your pilot remarks that the outside temperature is 40 degrees below zero, where the great fast-flowing rivers of the jet streams set weather systems spinning. The air here contains only one-fifth of the oxygen near sea-level, where the goose winters in lowland India wetlands and marshes. Yet in the space of a few hours the bird can fly from the wetlands to the top of the high peaks and then out onto the world's largest high plateau. There are lower passes through the mountains, but the goose does not take them. It may even preferentially go higher."

However, it seems that some of the claims made for the bar-headed goose lack empirical support. Research led by Bangor University tracked the bar-headed geese with GPS as they migrated over the Himalayas, and reached the following conclusion in 2011:

"Data reveal that they do not normally fly higher than 6,300 m elevation, flying through the Himalayan passes rather than over the peaks of the mountains...It has also been long believed that bar-headed geese use jet stream tail winds to facilitate their flight across the Himalaya. Surprisingly, latest research has shown that despite the prevalence of predictable tail winds that blow up the Himalayas (in the same direction of travel as the geese), bar-headed geese spurn the winds, waiting for them to die down overnight, when they then undertake the greatest rates of climbing flight ever recorded for a bird, and sustain these climbs rates for hours on end."

A more recent iteration of the research, The roller-coaster flight strategy of bar-headed geese conserves energy during Himalayan migration, (Science, 2015), suggests that the geese "opt repeatedly to shed hard-won altitude only subsequently to regain height later in the same flight. An example of this tactic can be seen in a 15.2-hour section of a 17-hour flight in which, after an initial climb to 3200 m, the goose followed an undulating profile involving a total ascent of 6340 m with a total descent of 4950 m for a net altitude gain of only 1390 m. Revealingly, calculations show that steadily ascending in a straight line would have increased the journey cost by around 8%. As even horizontal flapping flight is relatively expensive, the increase in energy consumption due to occasional climbs is not as important as the effect of reducing the general costs of flying by seeking higher-density air at lower altitudes.

"When traversing mountainous areas, a terrain tracking strategy or flying in the cool of the night can reduce the cost of flight in bar-headed geese through exposure to higher air density. Ground-hugging flight may also confer additional advantages including maximizing the potential of any available updrafts of air, reduced exposure to crosswinds and headwinds, greater safety through improved ground visibility, and increased landing opportunities. The atmospheric challenges encountered at the very highest altitudes, coupled with the need for near-maximal physical performance in such conditions, likely explains why bar-headed geese rarely fly close to their altitude ceiling, typically remaining below 6000 m."

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Driver core-skin temperature gradients and blackouts

Whilst it is highly beneficial to reduce the surface-to-bulk temperature gradient of a racing-tyre, the same cannot be said for the cognitive organisms controlling the slip-angles and slip-ratios of those tyres.

A 2014 paper in the Journal of Thermal Biology, Physiological strain of stock car drivers during competitive racing, revealed that not only does the core body temperature increase during a motor-race, (if we do indeed count a stock-car race as such), but the skin temperature can also rise to such a degree that the core-to-skin temperature delta decreases from ~2 degrees to ~1.3 degrees.

The authors suggest that a reduced core-to-skin temperature gradient increases the cardiovascular stress "by reducing central blood volume." Citing a 1972 study of military pilots, they also suggest that when such conditions are combined with G-forces, the grayout (sic) threshold is reduced.

Intriguingly, in the wake of the Fernando Alonso's alien abduction incident at Barcelona last week, they also assert that "A consequence of this combination may possibly result in a lower blackout tolerance."

Monday, March 02, 2015

McLaren front-wing vortices, circa 2003

Academic dissertations conducted in association with Formula 1 teams tend to be subject to multi-year embargoes. Hence, Jonathan Pegrum's 2006 work, Experimental Study of the Vortex System Generated by a Formula 1 Front Wing, is somewhat outdated, but might still be of some interest to budding aerodynamicists.

Currently an Aerodynamics Team Leader at McLaren, Pegrum's study concentrated on a front-wing configuration not dissimilar from that on an MP4-18/19 (2003-2004).

A constellation of four co-rotating vortices were created: (i) a main bottom edge vortex, generated by the pressure difference across the endplate due to the low pressure under the wing; (ii) a top edge vortex, generated by the pressure difference across the endplate due to the high pressure above the wing; (iii) a canard vortex, a leading edge vortex generated by the semi-delta wing ('canard') attached to the outer surface of the endplate; and (iv) a footplate vortex, generated by the pressure-difference across the footplate operating in ground-effect. 

Pegrum shows (in the absence of a wheel, below), that the strongest vortices are the bottom-edge and top-edge vortices, but all four mutually interact in the manner of unequal, co-rotating vortices, undergoing the early stages of a merger.

Now, whilst co-rotating vortices have a tendency to merge, counter-rotating vortices have a tendency to repel. Pegrum highlights the 1971 work of Harvey and Perry, Flowfield Produced by Trailing Vortices in the Vicinity of the Ground, which demonstrated that when a vortex spinning around an axis in the direction of the freestream passes close to a solid surface, it tends to pull a counter-rotating vortex off the boundary layer of the solid surface, (as illustrated below by Puel and de Saint Victor, Interaction of Wake Vortices with the Ground, 2000). 

The interaction between these counter-rotating vortices is such that the primary vortex is repelled away from the solid surface. This phenomenon, of course, is still very much of interest when it comes to the Y250 vortex and its cousins.