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 \(6~\mbox{m}\) long and \(1~\mbox{m}\) in diameter.
  • The air is at a pressure of \(1~\mbox{atm}\) and a temperature of \(30^\circ\mbox{C}\).
  • The density of the shark is that of water, \(1000~\mbox{kg/m}^3\).
  • 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 \(-9.8~\mbox{m/s}^2\).
  • \(m_a\), the molar mass of air, is \(29~\mbox{g/mol}\).

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