The physical basically deals with the science of nature, seeks to describe, predict and explain phenomena through laws that happen to the matter in the course of space and time. And even with many scientists working tirelessly every day, there are still unsolved mysteries. Or, if discoveries are made that were previously thought.
In short, this field of study is very broad and can always have a new twist, even if unintentionally. For example, the case of Derek Muller. When he took an experimental land yacht for a spin, it was not in his plans to make a scientific controversy. And sure enough, Muller wasn’t trying to win $10,000 on a bet.
Muller is the creator of the “Veritasium” YouTube channel. He likes to break trendy scientific concepts for the pleasure of his nearly 10 million followers. In May of that year, he published a video about a vehicle called Blackbird.
Rick Cavallaro, a former aerospace engineer, created the vehicle that runs on wind energy. He is the only one that can move directly downwind and faster than the wind itself for a period of time.
And any sailor can tell that a boat can also do this by cutting zigzag patterns, which is called grip. However, the idea that a vehicle can beat the wind by traveling in a straight comb line, without making any bends, is quite controversial.
“I knew this was a counterintuitive problem. To be perfectly honest with you, when I went out to pilot the ship, I didn’t understand how it worked,” Muller said.
In fact, the vehicle is so counterintuitive that less than a week after Muller released his video, UCLA physics professor Alexander Kusenko emailed him to tell Muller that something must be wrong. “A vehicle like this would violate the laws of physics,” Kusenko said.
“I said, ‘Look, if you don’t believe this, let’s put some money into this,’” Muller said. The youtuber suggested a $10,000 bet figuring the teacher wouldn’t take it. However, to Muller’s surprise, Kusenko accepted the bet.
Over the next few weeks, the two exchanged data and discussed the vehicle. The two even called on other big names in science, such as Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson, to help them decide which one was right. And in the end, Muller won the bet.
After a few days that Muller suggested the bet, Kusenko sent him a document with the terms of the bet. “Everything was always super airtight, I never saw a way to lose,” said Muller.
“Thanks to the laws of physics , I’m not risking anything,” Kusenko said. The professor was also quite confident that he would win the bet. So much so that he gave an hour-long presentation to Muller explaining why he was sure the youtuber had been fooled by science.
According to Kusenko, the Blackbird likely took advantage of intermittent wind gusts that helped the vehicle accelerate. In return, Muller sent the teacher data from the driving test in his video.
On the journey made on the bed of Lake El Mirage in Arizona, the vehicle accelerated more than two minutes. Which would have been impossible if he had counted on the gusts of wind. Blackbird reached a speed of 45 kilometers per hour in a tail wind of 16 kilometers per hour.
So Kusenko admitted that “due to a technicality the vehicle moves a little faster than the wind temporarily.”