Two jet-powered cars, developed in the UK and the US, are being readied for a race in Nevada's Block Rock Desert next month. If all goes well, one or both will break the sound barrier on land for the first time, reaching a speed of 1,215 km per hour within 30 seconds of its start. When planes travel faster than sound, their shock waves are dissipated over many kilometers in all directions. But a race car rides just 25 cm above the ground and totally distorts the air flow. The sonic boom could thus, reverberate back into the car with devastating force -- unless the car can be shaped to contain the shock wave under it ( Science , Vol 273, No 5281).
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