MythBusters and the Scientific method
Episode 37, “Escape Slide Parachute (Story of Vesna Vulović)
Textbook: Chapter 3, Accelerated Motion. Free Fall.
- What is the myth?
A person can survive free-fall from over 20,000 feet
How far is this in meters?
Convert feet to meters. 1 foot = 0.31 meters.
20,000 feet x 0.31 meters = 6200 m = 6.2 x 10 3 m
- Why would people believe that myth is true?
Newspaper articles: Vesna Vulović, a Serbia flight attendant, survived the explosion of a DC-9, from 30,000 feet, in 1972.
- Testable predictions: A crash-test dummy, dropped from a high altitude, within an airplane, will experience survivable damage
- How do they test their prediction?
* Purchase used airplane
* cut away the rear section of the plane.
* Strap a crash-test dummy into flight attendant’s seat.
* Lift section up, thousands of feet high, with a helicopter.
* Drop section in free-fall.
- Evaluation of the results?
* Buster had a terrible amount of damage.
* A person in that position would not survive this drop.
* Yet it has been confirmed that Vesna Vulović (Serbia flight attendant) survived the explosion of a DC-9, from 30,000 feet, in 1972.
* The section of the plane that the MythBusters dropped was only partially destroyed; other parts were still in shape.
* Conclusion: Since we know such a fall is thus theoretically survivable, something was not adequate about our experiment:
* Did they need to form a new hypothesis: Yes – they should re-test this with multiple crash dummies. They can be seated in various sections of the airplane. And the entire test could be repeated several times.