How Dangerous is a Penny Dropped From a Skyscraper? | Summary and Q&A

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October 1, 2022
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Veritasium
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How Dangerous is a Penny Dropped From a Skyscraper?

TL;DR

Dropping a penny from the Empire State Building won't kill you due to air resistance and terminal velocity.

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Key Insights

  • 💰 Dropping a penny from the Empire State Building wouldn't be fatal due to air resistance, despite its high speed upon impact.
  • 💧 Raindrops fall at a low terminal velocity of 25 kilometers per hour and have a spherical shape that flattens when too big.
  • ☔️ Hailstones, on the other hand, can reach terminal velocities of over 200 kilometers per hour and cause significant damage due to their size.
  • 🖊️ Plastic ballpoint pens dropped from a skyscraper, unlike pennies, do not reach high enough terminal velocities to cause harm.
  • 🛡️ Military projectiles, such as fléchettes and Lazy Dogs, have been used to cause casualties, but their effectiveness and dangers are dependent on shape and weight.
  • ⚾ Baseballs and large hailstones can deliver kinetic energy greater than the energy required to fracture a human skull, making them deadly projectiles.
  • 📚 Brilliant is an interactive learning tool that allows users to explore a wide range of STEM topics through interactive courses and simulations.
  • 🎯 Video demonstrations and simulations can help understand concepts and develop problem-solving skills, complementing the inspiration and excitement of science videos.

Transcript

  • [Derek] What would happen if you dropped a penny off the Empire State Building? Could it kill someone walking on the sidewalk below? What does it take to create a deadly projectile? Well, I'm gonna put this to the test with original MythBuster Adam Savage. He's going up in a helicopter to throw pennies at me. No one hasn't heard that story. - Whe... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How does air resistance affect the speed and impact of falling objects?

Air resistance plays a crucial role in determining the terminal velocity and potential harm caused by falling objects. It counteracts the force of gravity, limiting the speed at which objects can fall and reducing their impact upon landing.

Q: What factors determine an object's terminal velocity?

An object's terminal velocity is determined by its weight, shape, and surface area. Heavier objects tend to have higher terminal velocities, while objects with larger surface areas experience greater air resistance and therefore reach terminal velocity more slowly.

Q: Can objects with better aerodynamics cause more harm when dropped from heights?

Yes, objects with better aerodynamics, such as baseballs or large hailstones, can reach higher terminal velocities and cause more harm when dropped from heights. Their streamlined shapes allow them to overcome air resistance more effectively, resulting in increased speed and impact upon landing.

Q: Why are pennies not as dangerous when dropped from tall buildings?

Pennies, due to their small size, irregular shape, and relatively low weight, experience significant air resistance and reach a terminal velocity of around 80 kilometers per hour. This limits their potential to cause serious harm when dropped from tall buildings.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The MythBusters and Derek Muller investigate whether pennies dropped from the Empire State Building can be deadly projectiles.

  • Pennies, due to air resistance, reach a terminal velocity of around 80 kilometers per hour, making them unlikely to cause serious harm.

  • Objects with greater weight and better aerodynamics can potentially be lethal when dropped from heights, such as baseballs or large hailstones.

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