Experiments

Jump/Falling Elevator

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Elevator of Death"
Medioimages/Photodisc

Finding: BUSTED

Explanation: In 1945, an airplane collided with the Empire State Building, sending elevator operator Betty Lou Oliver on a 75-story plummet to the ground. Miraculously, Oliver made it out of the deadly ride alive, earning her the Guinness World Record for longest elevator fall survived. MythBusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage wanted to know whether Oliver could've possibly saved herself by jumping immediately before the elevator hit the ground.

The MythBusters located an abandoned elevator and picked Buster the test dummy to take the plunge. Since dummies aren't exactly light on their feet, they positioned Buster on a spring-loaded cartridge that would allow him to "jump" at the right time. When the MythBusters cut the safety and counterweight cables on the elevator, the unbridled car dropped 92 feet at 51 miles (82 kilometers) per hour.

But even though Buster sprang off the floor at the right moment, he still hit the ground at a fatal speed and busted the myth.

According to the laws of physics, both the elevator car and Buster dropped at the same breakneck speed. In order to overcome that velocity and survive the impact, Buster would've had to have jumped up faster than the elevator was racing down.

Turns out Oliver didn't save herself by jumping, either. A pocket of air at the bottom of the Empire State Building's elevator shaft probably cushioned the car's landing.

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