Psst… hey, hey. Are you a part of… the resistance? No, not that Resistance… Air resistance!
Air resistance may not be as cool as Poe Dameron’s Resistance, but, much like the Force, it’s invisible to the naked eye, and yet still capable of doing extraordinary things. In one of its recent videos, the team at Tested’s YouTube Channel (which stems from the Tested website, backed by Mythbuster’s Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman) showcased the power of air resistance, as well as what happens in its absence, by using a ping pong ball “cannon” and a Diet Coke can.
As you can see in the above video, Tested co-host Kishore Hari and San Francisco Exploratorium’s Zeke Kossover demonstrate how you can build a can-killing cannon using a ping pong ball, some PVC pipe, a vacuum pump, and Mylar.
As Kossover explains, ping pong balls are usually slow and harmless thanks to their design. Because ping pong balls have such a large surface area relative to their mass, when they encounter air molecules, they slow way down. Under normal circumstances ping pong balls make for horrible cannon balls. But, if you place one in a tube, and then suck all of the air molecules out, you eliminate the air resistance. Then, as Kossover shows, you can puncture the Mylar on one end of the tube, have all of the air rush back in (nature abhors a vacuum), and let the force of the rushing air fire the ball down the pipe and into the guts of whatever may be on the business end of the cannon.
Without air resistance, the ping pong ball, which before was paddled by the pros at a max recorded speed of 69.9 mph, now travels at 500 mph. The concept of a vacuum-pumped airless tube isn’t only useful for firing ping pong balls and nailing cans however. The Hyperloop, a transport system conceived of by Elon Musk, uses the same principles to create what could be supersonic, or even hypersonic speeds for its passenger pods.
So the next time you’re playing ping pong (or beer pong), remember young Padawan… you must use the force… of air resistance.
What do you think about Tested’s ping pong cannon? Let us know in the comments section below!