posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Tablecloth Chaos"
Beyond Productions

Finding: BUSTED

Explanation: When MythBusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage spotted a viral video of a perfect tablecloth pull performed by someone riding a motorcycle, they had to know whether they could believe their eyes. In the video, someone on a motorcycle zips past a banquet table set for 24 people and yanks the tablecloth free without disturbing a single plate.

According to Newton's first law of inertia, that scenario is possible if the inertia of the moving tablecloth exceeds the friction between the fabric and the objects on top of it. For that reason, the MythBusters covered their banquet table with a lightweight, friction-reducing fabric and set out plastic, weight-reducing place settings.

But when Jamie sped past the table at 100 miles (161 kilometers) per hour on a motorcycle and liberated the tablecloth, he jostled the place settings in the process. After three tries, it became clear that the banquet table was simply too long to balance the friction-inertia equation, and Jamie and Adam busted the dubious viral footage.

On the small scale, the MythBusters pulled off tablecloth pulls, but the motorcycle magic couldn't overcome the power of physics.

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