Experiments

Plywood Lifesaver

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Beat the Radar Detector"
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Finding: BUSTED

Explanation: MythBusters Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage caught wind of a story about a construction worker who was blown off the top of a building while holding onto a five-ply sheet of plywood. Luckily for him, the plywood provided enough wind resistance that he was gently blown several floors below unharmed.

In a model free-fall test, a miniature plywood sheet slowed a dummy's descent by 25 percent, so Jamie and Adam whipped together a couple of full-scale wooden wind blockers to see if they could re-create the scene.

Adam fanned out five thin sheets of plywood into a slightly domed, parachute-like shape. Jamie, on the other hand, took the helicopter approach, overlapping five sheets into a rectangular blade.

But when test-dummy Buster went flying with his plywood parachutes, the myth quickly went bust. Buster didn't remain upright during the drops, and on top of that, the wooden wings actually sped up his trip to the ground. G-force meters measuring the impact of Buster's landings also declared him dead on arrival.

Based on Buster's brutal belly flops to the ground, Jamie and Adam concluded that the plywood parachute myth doesn't fly.

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