Within the scope of a contest organized by the Euro Space Society for high school students named: “With your students in ZERO-G”, 6 persons connected to the Free Technical School or “Vrij Technisch Instituut” of Ypres, took part in a so-called parabolic flight campaign near Bordeaux in September 2006. Normally, these flights are reserved for aeronautic and space industries, or for colleges and universities, but Belgium took the initiative to hire places for 6 groups, each made up of 4 high school students, their teacher and a university student as their stand-by. The Belgian Science Policy supplied the money, and we are all very grateful for that.

The goal of the contest was to think out an experiment related to space, in the widest context of the word space. The 6 winning experiments were to be realized and executed on board of the Airbus A300 – ZERO-G at Bordeaux, by a team counting 6 people. As you may imagine, a great challenge of course, but the reward promised to be great as well.

Our team from “VTI Ieper” devised a so-called “singing gravitation detector” and has been selected as the only technical school besides 5 other Belgian high schools. The original idea has arisen from the fact that if you make a liquid spin in a glass, the surface takes the shape of a parabola under the influence of two forces: the gravitational and the centrifugal force. A rotating liquid in a glass climbs against the sides in a parabolic shape depending on the equilibrium between the gravitational and the centrifugal force. The last one is alterable without difficulty, namely by speeding up the rotation. If we increase the rotation speed, the water will climb higher against the sides of the glass.

In the limit, if we could drive up the rotation speed until infinity, the water would stand upright, get perpendicularly against the side of the glass. Unfortunately, an infinite rotation speed is practically impossible to reach. We can only approach this situation! Here on earth, changing gravity is not that simple. Only when dropping the glass or vessel, we can eliminate the gravitational force during a very short time.

Nevertheless, this effect is the key idea behind parabolic flights. By dropping the plane in a parabolic trajectory, we may reach up to 20 seconds of weightlessness. Note the parallel naming: we create a parabolic water surface during a parabolic flight.