Skip to navigationSkip to content

Video: A physicist puts his “life on the line” for the love of science

WikiMedia/Creative Commons
Physicist Andreas Wahl preformed a death defying experiment to demonstrate how centripetal force works.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Explaining complex theories of physics to the average person is tough, so physicist Andreas Wahl took another approach: performing a death defying stunt.

Wahl wanted to explain Newton’s second law of circular motion and how objects with a centripetal force (which compels them to travel in a curved path) spin faster as they reach a central point. So, from a pole at an abandoned Norwegian warehouse, he hung 14 meters (46 feet) in the air without any sort of safety equipment, attached only to a rope with a kettleball on the end. Theoretically, as he fell, the rope with the weight would spin around the pole to which it was attached faster, and essentially get caught in time to prevent Wahl from hitting the ground.

Falling so far without any safety equipment is very dangerous—and we don’t suggest you try it at home—but it worked for Wahl’s experiment. Here’s a clip from “Life on the Line,” a Norwegian TV show on NRK Viten, in which Wahl performed the stunt:

And here’s the raw, unedited, version. You can see in the second camera angle that there doesn’t seem to be anything supporting Wahl except for the rope.

There’s also a clip of Wahl and a friend planning the experiment, where the physicist demonstrates what’s going to happen to him using a piece of string, a coin, and a coffee cup. Wahl was concerned about the rope sliding off the pole as it tightened, so his friend made him a stopper to put at the end of it.

Like any “mad scientist,” Wahl has some other cool videos too. Here’s one of him going through a raging fire with no protection and coming out unscathed.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.