Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Up!

Much like movie romance, movie physics often push the boundaries of what is real and possible. A fun example of this comes from the 2009 Pixar movie "Up". In the proud tradition of unreal movie physics, this film depicts an old man's house being torn from its foundation and lifted off the ground by an enormous bunch of helium balloons.

Now, is it possible for such a thing to occur without the magic of animation? This is the question asked by the team on National Geographic's "How Hard Can It Be?".

The answer? No, impossible.

In order for balloons to lift a house, the upward force of the balloons must exceed the force due to gravity keeping the house planted firmly on the ground. The upward motion of the balloons is due to buoyancy. The helium balloon is lighter than the air it displaces, so it moves upward. Unfortunately, the gathering the quantity of balloons needed exceed the force due to gravity is simply not feasible.

But that's no fun. So the folks over at "How Hard Can It Be?" scaled it down and did it anyway. They constructed a light weight replica home and gathered approximately 300 high capacity weather balloons. With this set-up, they were able to lift the house, with people inside, creating a real-life re-enactment of the movie. And that's still pretty cool.

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