Vegard Skjefstad

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Up, Up and Away!

Here’s a question for you that really bugs me:

A plane is standing on a runway that can move (some sort of band conveyer). The plane moves in one direction, while the conveyer moves in the opposite direction. This conveyer has a control system that tracks the plane speed and tunes the speed of the conveyer to be exactly the same (but in the opposite direction). Can the plane take off?

This question has been haunting the internet for some time now, but I didn’t see it until yesterday. I’d say it’s impossible for the plane to take off, but the great minds of the internet says that it will take off as a normal plane regardless of the conveyer belt. They’re also claiming that you’ll only need Physics 101 to solve the exercise…

Is this just case of human intuition being plain1 wrong – like the classic “do you swim slower in syrup than in water” – or have the great minds of the internet teamed up to confuse the rest of us?

Can someone explain this one to me? Preferably in a language that’s on my intellectual level. Baby language, perhaps.

Footnotes

  1. The pun, oh, the pun.

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