Football Filled With Helium Will Fly Farther

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Helium Football."

Finding: BUSTED

Explanation:In the 1970s, Oakland Raiders kicker Ray Guy once punted a ball that hung mid-air long enough for officials to question whether the pigskin was filled with helium. It wasn't, but since then, many have tossed around the myth that a helium-filled football would outdistance a normal one. MythBusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage strapped on their thinking helmets to test it out.

Helium gas has half the density of air, and a regulation football pumped full of it weighs around 7 grams less than an air-filled one. Since a lighter ball would create less drag (friction) mid-air, you might deduce that it would go farther. But as the MythBusters realized after booting a boatload of air- and helium-filled footballs, simple deduction is no match for Newton's laws of motion.

Newton's Second Law states that an object's force is equal to its mass multiplied by its acceleration. The greater the mass, the greater the force (or inertia). Therefore, the slightly heavier air-filled football actually pushes through the air with greater force, flying slightly farther than a lighter helium-filled football.

Although the MythBusters predicted that helium balls would sail past normal footballs, Newton's brilliance busted this myth centuries ago.

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