How does a fan compare to a propeller? Why does a fan blow air while a propeller has “lift”? — DB, Austin, TX
A fan and a propeller are actually the same thing. Both are rotating wings that push the air in one direction and experience a reaction force in the opposite direction as a result. Each experiences a “lift” force, typically called “thrust,” in the direction opposite the airflow. If you put a strong fan on a low-friction cart or a good skateboard, it will accelerate forward as it pushes the air backward. Similarly, if you prevent a propeller plane from moving, its spinning blades will act as powerful fans.