1
$\begingroup$

I was reading about gravity assist.

This maneuver is sometimes called a gravitational slingshot. But to me it seems more like a sling (like the one the Biblical David used against Goliath) The maneuver makes use of the movement of the planet (like a sling makes use of the movement of the hand) and the orbit is curved, like that of a sling. I don't immediately think of a slingshot when I read about it.

A slingshot (Y-bow) is stationary. A gravitational "slingshot" would never work if the planet was stationary.

OK, it is a detail, but technical terms are often very precise. Why is this term used? (Or did I miss something and it is not misleading?) (I am interested in the exchange of energy between bodies so my question is not only linguistic.)

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

The term is ambiguous. A slingshot is also a shot from a sling.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That sounds like a possible theory. But even JPL writes "a flyby to slingshot it farther into space". Wouldn't "sling it farther" describe the process better? $\endgroup$ – ycc_swe Sep 3 '16 at 11:25
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, it would. Even writers sometimes choose the wrong word :) $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Sep 3 '16 at 11:48
6
$\begingroup$

It's a poetic term which everyone understands immediately. You're trying to treat this as a "technical term" when it clearly isn't. It's a descriptive term - as evidenced by the existence of less-poetic terms like "gravity assist". Einstein said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." - the term is immediately understood, it conveys what it's meant to, it causes no confusion - so why complicate the matter? It serves it's purpose. Nothing else matters.

$\endgroup$

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.