7
$\begingroup$

Using our world's physics, how could one explain the mechanics behind a witch on a broomstick? Not just the propelling part, but even the most basic fact - sitting on a broomstick - seems problematic: The center of gravity of human body is far above the broomstick, so within a second, a witch would just turn flying upside down (making landings very painful among other problems).

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ With a bit of practice & balance I think sitting on the broomstick itself wouldn't be too difficult - after all, you can often see people sitting on railings... $\endgroup$ – colmde Jan 29 '16 at 16:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ With railings you normally have something to put your feet against to balance with. Harry potter broomsticks have footrests and they lie down against the stick with their feet in the footrests. That makes it all seem much more reasonable. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Jan 29 '16 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ Something I've always find confusing with flying things is, in which point of the object is the magic exerting its force? $\endgroup$ – Arturo Torres Sánchez Jan 29 '16 at 17:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The "physics" involved are essentially neurochemistry and how the hallucinogenic substance smeared on the broom handle (FWIW I thought it was made from datura not cannabis) generate a sensation of flying in the brain. $\endgroup$ – R.. Jan 29 '16 at 20:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I've placed a query on scifi.se about the Stanislaw Lem story. $\endgroup$ – NL_Derek Jan 29 '16 at 23:08
7
$\begingroup$

Let's assume witches do exist and they are riding broomstick-like objects!


My answer could be decomposed into multiple points:

How would they mount the broomstick without hanging from the broomstick?

I think a well-behaved witch (if there are any) would never mount the broomstick like man, but like ladies of her time. In this case balancing on the stick could be learned (we all have set on climbing frame rods at young ages without falling).

An evil and promiscuous witch might ride a broomstick like man ride their horses, but I think a witch like that would be practical enough to apply a cross-rod or some sort of a saddle. I mean we only see witches from quite far, and their dress hides the fine details. A practical witch might also apply weighted boots or other counterweights to maintain upward position.

It is also worth mentioning, that medieval-time broomsticks were not manufactured, but handcrafted so they could be directly shaped for riding like in Harry Potter movies.

How could a broomstick-like object fly?

The most appealing explanation would be a rocket- or jet drive, which could - in theory - be built into the body of the broomstick, and exhaust gases could be released by shafts through the sorghum. The only problem with this explanation would be, that this way the broomstick would be propelled forward with an extremely high power, so it would be very fast, hard to control and very hard to hang on.

If I had to build something like that I would choose another approach:

I would use a flying machine of some sort (the "what sort" doesn't really matter in our point of view), and hide it with some sort of stealth tech. (Active camouflage of some sort for example) and fix the brooms ends to it. The witch would ride the broom and control the flying machine remotely .

$\endgroup$
5
$\begingroup$

Handwaving propulsion and all else there would have to be ballast in the straw end of the broom, if it is to be ridden in the modern fashion: enter image description here

Traditionally witches ride them straw side forward like a hobby-horse. I am having a hard time finding a non-nude picture of a witch flying in this manner as nudity was also in style at the time.

enter image description here

The posture in the first picture seems the best way to ride a broom. By sitting on the straw and keeping the handle up lowers the center of gravity and prevents tipping over. Unfortunately, it is not very aerodynamic as your upright posture catches the wind. Go to fast and you get blown right off the things. You can always trade speed for stability by leaning forward with you head close to the handle knees bent feet close to the straw. but don't blame me when you barrel roll and lose your grip.

I think by controlling your posture carefully for the task at hand, you could ride a broom with some degree of realism.

$\endgroup$
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ "A' course, I rode my broomstick in the nudd, as was the style at the time." $\endgroup$ – Whelkaholism Jan 29 '16 at 16:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ +1 for the (remarkably rare) historical knowledge. Broomsticks are symbolic horses, which is why they were traditionally shown as being ridden like a hobby-horse. However, introducing magic and symbolism does tend to diminish the applicability of the your other considerations. Not to mention defeating the premise of the OP (that physics matters in this case.) $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Jan 29 '16 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ Plus one for William Butler Yeats. $\endgroup$ – King-Ink Jan 29 '16 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ “as nudity was also in style at the time” What a time to be alive! $\endgroup$ – Martin Bean Jan 29 '16 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinBean mostly it was just in style among witches and it was a great time to be alive .... I assume. $\endgroup$ – King-Ink Jan 29 '16 at 17:09
4
$\begingroup$

Logically, witches are made of wood and weigh as much as a duck!

So there isn't much center of mass to deal with!

On a slightly more serious note, witches are already using magic to fly around on brooms in the sky. So it probably does't take much more magic to ensure they stay upright, especially after the first embarrassing landing, with their skirts over their head.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I might be mistaken, but I understood the first sentence of @petr-pudlák ("Using our world's physics, how could one explain the mechanics behind a witch on a broomstick?") as wanting for a handwave-free explanation in a Clarke's third law sence. So "it's magic" is not an acceptable enough for him. $\endgroup$ – mg30rg Jan 29 '16 at 22:08
  • $\begingroup$ BURN HER!!!!!!! $\endgroup$ – Keltari Jul 13 '16 at 3:21
3
$\begingroup$

A recent anime (and ongoing manga) series Flying Witch provided an alternate explanation.

After the main character complained that she could not 'ride' a broom for too long before her butt hurt and her legs got tired, her older sister explained that she was not supposed to lift her body up with the broom, but rather transfer the levitation from the broom back into her self. She was then made to practice by holding the broom vertically with one hand, and hovering both herself and the broom a foot or so above the ground.

The 'riding' position, is for increased contact with the broom, for efficiency of transfer and safety. And it provides slightly better aerodynamics than standing on it or hanging from it. Ladylike witches ride sidesaddle, because it is more refined. But athletic witches mount the broom so they can maximize contact and minimize drag, and thus get maximum speed and control.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

The center of gravity of human body is far above the broomstick

A bit like riding a bicycle, the broomstick moves (slightly, side-to-side as well as forward) to remain underneath the rider.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ This feels like a half answer. Without something to brace against (e.g., bicycle pedals), the rider would be constantly off balance, especially as they keep trying to adjust to a thin piece of wood that's moving left and right of its own accord. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Aug 11 '17 at 11:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre I think that's nonsense: when you're coasting on a cycle, for example, you don't have to "brace" against the pedals. I say this from practical personal experience. You're not constantly off-balance if the vehicle is constantly correcting to keep you balanced. $\endgroup$ – ChrisW Aug 11 '17 at 14:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ When you're on your cycle, do you hold onto the handle bars or the frame? Do you ever touch the pedals? If you do, then you are bracing/stabilizing. A broomstick has none of these features. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Aug 11 '17 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ You can balance a tall stick vertically on your hand. The stick isn't "braced", instead the hand moves to stay under the stick. Making the stick longer and/or more top-heavy makes that balancing act easier. $\endgroup$ – ChrisW Aug 11 '17 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ Have you tried doing this with a stick that was also trying to stay balanced? Whatever. You clearly aren't getting my point. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Aug 11 '17 at 23:37
1
$\begingroup$

Witches up to speed would use the planking technique: long and low to minimize wind resistance. Wanda demonstrates here on her motorcycle. I believe (but am not sure) that some motorcycles offer foot hooks to facilitate planking over long distances at speed.

enter image description here

The witch would contact the broom with hands and ankles crossed over, with the stick possibly resting against the midline bony sternum and pubic bone.

As regards the broom itself, it should be long and heavy, in the manner of a tightrope walker's pole. from https://www.quora.com/Why-do-tightrope-walkers-carry-a-pole-How-does-the-pole-help-with-balance-and-why-is-that-specific-object-chosen

An increased moment of inertia helps withstand external sources of torque, such as sudden gusts of wind. The heavy weights allow the tightrope walker to exert torque by simply rotating the pole slightly, which moves his/her center of mass the other way, helping recenter him- or herself directly over the tightrope.

The principle should hold even with the broom and rider with long axes aligned.

enter image description here

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.