Hollywood movies often slightly bend the laws of physics (as in The Matrix), the laws of biology (as in X-Men), or the laws of meteorology (as in Twister). However, it's the rare movie that hits the trifecta of wildly violating all three disciplines at once. In honor of the recent direct-to-tv movie Sharknado, which is, as the title implies, about great white sharks being hurled onto the California coastline by a tornado, we give you a little flying shark physics:

What is the wind speed in m/s required to keep a great white shark suspended in midair during a summer day on the California beach?

Details and assumptions

  • Model the shark as a horizontal cylinder 6 m6~\mbox{m} long and 1 m1~\mbox{m} in diameter.
  • The air is at a pressure of 1 atm1~\mbox{atm} and a temperature of 30C30^\circ\mbox{C}.
  • The density of the shark is that of water, 1000 kg/m31000~\mbox{kg/m}^3.
  • Assume that the wind gust that keeps the shark suspended is blowing straight upwards, and that the air molecules bounce off the shark elastically.
  • The acceleration of gravity is 9.8 m/s2-9.8~\mbox{m/s}^2.
  • mam_a, the molar mass of air, is 29 g/mol29~\mbox{g/mol}.

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