At this meeting of Science & More, we explored how flight works to try and determine if Icarus and his dad, Daedalus, could really have flown out of captivity like they do in the Greek legend.
(Not familiar with the story? Go here to read it, as told by the island claiming it for a namesake).
To start, we talked about what we knew of the legend and flight. We knew that:
Daedalus made wings for himself and Icarus so they could escape prison.
Icarus flew too high to the sun and his wings melted.
They probably left from somewhere high.
We also knew that:
A tail helps with steering.
Wind plays a big role in flying.
Lighter things will fly better.
So we read the legend and then watched a video about how birds fly - it does a much better job of explaining it than I can. It also touched briefly on why we don't fly without help from an airplane, and how airplanes fly. We talked about what we saw - and agreed that it would have been difficult for the father and son duo to fly to safety as described in the myth.
We took another look at one factor of bird flight not covered in the video, but that we had noticed in pictures of Icarus - wingspan, wing area, and how it plays into lift - a.k.a. how birds get and stay airborne. Lift is proportional to the area of a birds wings. The bigger the wing, the more mass that can be carried in flight. Wingspan is the distance from wing tip to wing tip, and wing area is the wingspan multiplied by the wing height.
We pretended that WE were birds, and used the distance of our outstretched arms fingertip to fingertip as the wingspan. Then attendees lay down on a large piece of paper while another attendee drew a pair of wings around their arm. Of these two wings, the green one would be able to carry more while flying. We determined it had a wing area of 539 square inches, as opposed to the blue one's wing area of 264 square inches!
Finally, we made paper gliders that we flew around the program room!