“A PENNY DROPPED FROM A SKYSCRAPER COULD KILL SOMEONE”
There’s no need to fear for your life the next time you pass through the shadow of a skyscraper — pennies dropped from the rooftops aren’t going to pierce your skull. Intrepid investigators have put this myth to the test in ingenious ways, and it’s been well and truly busted.
University of Virginia physics professor Louis Bloomfield was so confident that the myth was false that he sent a penny-loaded helium balloon into the sky. The pennies dropped like leaves in the air, buffeted by the wind. The faster they fell, the more air resistance they experienced. Pennies are too small and flat to be a danger, only reaching speeds of around 40.2 kilometres per hour. At some point the downward force of gravity balances the upward force of air resistance, and the pennies can’t fall any faster.
According to the Mythbusters team, a penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building might collide with the pavement at 103.6 kilometres per hour. So they made a gun that could fire pennies at that speed. Although their test dummy may have suffered a little damage, when they turned on each other they were not harmed. According to Professor Bloomfield, if the coins fell in a vacuum they’d be much more dangerous, reaching a speed of 335.7 kilometres per hour. But even then they wouldn’t penetrate the skull.
However, in an interview with Life’s Little Mysteries, he warned against ballpoint pens. The shape of these is more bullet-like, and if they come down straight they could get close to 335.7 kilometres per hour in the air, so the pointy end could do a lot more damage.
Coins tumble through the air, limiting their top speed