Researchers believe studying belly flops could have significant benefit for marine engineers and the U.S. Navy

Boy belly flopping into a lake
Boy belly flopping into a lake Photo credit Getty Images/suwanneeredhead

We all remember those fearless kids growing up who had no problem hitting a belly flop at the neighborhood pool.  A couple moments of pain for a whole summer of glory, who wouldn’t want that?

As fun as belly flops are to watch, researcher believe studying them may produce significant benefits for our aqua-armed forces, specifically why they hurt so much.

Researchers at Brown University are looking at the impact of a body as it slams into a body of water, such as a belly flop. Studying the physics behind belly flops can actually aid naval and marine engineering, as a number of their structures “need to withstand high-impact air-to-water slamming forces.”

As for why belly flops are so painful, Daniel Harris, an assistant professor in Brown University’s School of Engineering who specializes in fluid mechanics, explained in a university release that the stinging pain from a belly flop is a result of the abrupt change from air to still water, causing the water’s surface to resist the body’s motion fiercely.

He said, “All of a sudden, the water has to accelerate to catch up to the speed of what’s falling through the air.  When this happens, that large reaction force is sent back to whatever’s doing the impacting, leading to that signature slam.”

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images/suwanneeredhead