Parachutes are designed to create as much drag as possible. So why do parachutes have holes in them?

When a human falls to earth (whether silently like Wile E. Coyote or while issuing the famous Wilhelm Scream), the earth's gravitational pull accelerates them faster and faster. In a vacuum, this would be the only force working upon them. Since most people on earth don't fall through a vacuum, gravity isn't the only force at work on them. The faster they move, the more quickly they're shoving down air molecules on their way to the ground. Those air molecules provide a counter-force to the push of the body against them. This counter force is air resistance.

The faster gravity accelerates the person, the more air resistance they encounter. The more air resistance they encounter, the slower they fall. Eventually an equilibrium is reached between the downward acceleration caused by gravity and the upward push caused by air resistance. This is called terminal velocity. It's the point at which a body will fall no faster.

For a free-falling human without a parachute, terminal velocity lives up to its name in more ways than one. Few people survive a long fall to the ground. Enter the parachute. It spreads out over a huge area, causing a falling person to displace much more air as they fall. Since more air molecules are being shoved down by the fabric of the parachute, the parachute â€“ and the person attached to it â€“ get pushed upwards in return. The equilibrium of terminal velocity is once again reached, but this time it's a velocity that's survivable. All because of the drag of the parachute.

So if that drag is so important, if pushing down as much air as possible is the key to slowing a fall, it doesn't make sense that round parachutes have holes in them. The holes let air slip through and continue on its way without slowing the jumper down.