Science Questions

Why does paper lift up when you blow across it?

Sun, 6th May 2007

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Fred & Scott, Cambridge asked:

If you hold a sheet of paper at one edge so that it curls downwards, why does it then lift up if you blow across the top side?




If you blow air over a curved surface, it tends to stick to that surface; it’s called the Coanda Effect.  If the surface, in this case the paper, is bending downwards, it will pull that air downwards with it. 


Blowing over Paper

If air (black) is blown over a curved piece of paper it will tend to stick to the paper, to do this the paper must be pulling it down (blue) so the air must push the paper up (red) ©Dave Ansell

If you push something, it pushes you so if the paper is pushing the air down, the air will push the paper up.  This is exactly the same principle as is used in aeroplane wings; they push air downwards, so the air pushes them up.

The Coanda Effect can also be seen in a ‘Bernoulli blower’, or by putting a table tennis ball in the air flow from a hairdryer.  The air going past each side pushes on the ball, and these forces keep the ball in the stream of air.  Theres more info on how this works here.


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