Cracking a whip causes a small sonic boom as the end travels faster than the speed of sound. Top science bloke Marty Jopson explains the science behind this phenomenon.
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The key to how a whip works is the conservation of energy. Any moving object, including this whip, has kinetic energy. Kinetic energy relies on two things – the mass of the thing moving and the velocity at which it’s moving at. Due to the uncoiling action of the whip, the mass of the whip decreases through the movement and the velocity increases. The handle of the whip moves at roughly 10m/s but the tip of the whip reaches speeds of over 400 m/s which is faster than the speed of sound at 353 m/s.
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