I Came In Like A Wrecking Ball (Going 390 MPH)

By Kyle Hill | April 2, 2014 10:30 am

Miley-Cyrus-Wrecking-BallYes, there is a paper in a scientific journal whose discussion concludes:

Based on these findings, it is clear that a human being cannot possess the characteristics of a wrecking ball without sustaining significant injury, and other objects should be sought as an analogy.

Who’s going to tell Miley Cyrus about this? Stick around for the science below* (and then stick your tongue out if you feel like it).

I Never Hit So Hard In Love (Pulling 350 G’s)

In the business of taking things literally, third-year natural sciences student David McDonagh from The Centre for Interdisciplinary Science at University of Leicester decided to consider Miley Cyrus’s smash pop song “Wrecking Ball” as a description of a person using themselves as an actual wrecking ball. His results (obviously) show that it’s probably a bad idea to literally smash someone’s walls with your body.

An ordinary wrecking ball is a massive, incredibly durable object. It has to be to break down the buildings and structures we take so much time putting up. An average ball could be anywhere from 1,000 to 7,000 kilograms of solid metal. The material helps, but what really gets the work done is the swinging. When you swing a massive object, it gains a lot of momentum. And when that momentum suddenly changes—when the ball hits a wall—a huge amount of force is produced. That’s what makes it through concrete and steel and brick. So how good a wrecking ball would Miley be?

Miley is nowhere near as heavy as an average wrecking ball, so to produce the same momentum, she would have to come in incredibly fast. Assuming she weighed 125 pounds**, she would have to come in like a wrecking ball at over 390 miles per hour to generate the same momentum.

And what happens when this Miley ball hits a wall? Assuming a rapid deceleration, Miley pulls 350 G’s impacting the wall with over 198,000 Newtons—a force equivalent to getting hit with all the force rocketed out of a 747 engine at once.

If Miley really did come in like a wrecking ball, she would never again hit so hard in love, because she’d be dead.

Paper Reference: McDonagh, D. (2014). The viability of coming in like a wrecking ball. Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics. LINK

*If you are asking yourself why anyone would ever care about something like this, please refer to the following GIF.

**I used different numbers than the paper, as McDonagh put Miley’s weight far above a skinny, fit twenty-something.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
  • Dave Minella

    Greatest closing sentence of an article, ever.

  • funkmon

    Reading this upset the physicist in me. Momentum isn’t that relevant, in my opinion, to this. Energy, however, is. What we really need to know is how much energy is there, and how much force is applied.

    I also don’t like the fact that he didn’t address her coming in as if she were a wrecking ball, an acceptable definition of “like” in this case. Assuming Miley were tied up so she couldn’t wobble around as the bob, she would still create a complex pendulum as her body is not heavy enough to achieve that speed by a pendulum process alone, so more difficult math is called for.

    She would need additional propulsion, which is stated. But, it isn’t elaborated upon, a big miss in my book.

    Overall, I rate this a 5 out of 10. A great idea, but missing many opportunities for dry humor and elaborating on possible ways for Miley to come in like a wrecking ball. Huge miss.

    • Phos

      Yeah, a “journal”, like “JIST”, reviewed by undergraduate students in one university is not a “scientific journal” in the true/usual meaning. As their homepage says: “PEER REVIEW PROCESS:Submissions are reviewed by undergraduates on the programme.” So, it was written by an undergrad and reviewed by undergrads.


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It has been said that you should try to make a problem as simple as possible, but not simpler. Here, that problem is finding the real science behind pop culture. But Not Simpler is a place where you can ask the questions you thought were too nerdy for real answers. The physics of video games? Sure! The chemistry of dragon breath? Why not? When you can find the realities behind your favorite fiction, and seriously nerd-out in the process, everyone wins. Simple.

About Kyle Hill

Kyle Hill is a science writer and communicator who specializes in finding the secret science in your favorite fandom. His work has appeared in Wired, The Boston Globe, Scientific American, Popular Science, Slate, and more. He is a TV correspondent for Al Jazeera America's science and technology show TechKnow and a columnist for Skeptical Inquirer magazine. Find his stream of nerdery on Twitter: @Sci_Phile Email him at sciencebasedlife [at] gmail [dot] com.


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