We all have those thoughts, those that come to us in the little hours of the night. who am I? Why are we here? What if my mobile phone is running on vacuum tubes instead? Randall Munroe has an answer to, well, not just one question, but also answers to a whole bunch of other questions that are lumped together in What if? 2: Additional serious scientific answers to silly hypothetical questions. Yes, this is a T-Rex eating a plane. In the excerpt below, Monroe examines what it takes to drag a medium-sized human on a chair over Australia’s tallest skyscraper, using only the power of a pigeon. a lot and Lots from the bathroom.
Adapted from What if? 2 by Randall Munro. Copyright © 2022 by Randall Munroe. Excerpted with permission from Riverhead, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without written permission from the publisher.
How many bathrooms are needed to lift the average person and launch chair to the height of the Australian Q1 skyscraper?
In a 2013 study, researchers at Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics led by Ting Ting Liu trained pigeons to fly upward while wearing a heavy belt. They found that the average pigeon in their study could take off and fly up while carrying 124 grams, about 25 percent of its body weight.
Researchers have determined that pigeons can fly better if the weights are slung under their bodies, rather than on their backs, so you’ll probably want pigeons to raise your seat from above rather than support it from below.
Let’s say your chair and straps weigh 5 kg and you weigh 65 kg. If you used the pigeons from a 2013 study, it would take a swarm of about 600 of them to lift your seat and fly with it.
Unfortunately, flying loaded takes a lot of work. Pigeons in the 2013 study were able to carry a load 1.4m up to a perch, but they likely wouldn’t be able to fly much higher. Even an unattached pigeon can sustain a grueling vertical flight for just a few seconds. One 1965 study measured a climb rate of 2.5 m/s for unattached pigeons,* So even if we’re optimistic, it seems unlikely that a bathroom will raise your seat more than 5 metres.†
No problem, you might think. If 600 pigeons can lift you in the first 5 metres, you only need to bring another 600 with you, like the second stage of a rocket, to carry the next 5 metres when the first flock is tired. You can bring another 600 for 5 meters after that and so on. Q1 is 322 meters high, so about 40,000 pigeons should get you to the top, right?
No, there is a problem with this idea.
Since pigeons can only carry a quarter of their body weight, they need four flying pigeons to carry one pigeon. This means that each “stage” will need at least four times the number of pigeons above it. Lifting one person may only require 600 pigeons, but lift one person And the 600 resting baths take another 3,000 baths.
This exponential growth means that a 9-stage vehicle, capable of lifting you 45 meters, would need nearly 300 million pigeons, roughly equal to the world’s total population. Reaching the midpoint would require 1.6 x 1025 pigeons, which would weigh about 8 x 1024 kilograms – more than the Earth itself. At this point, the pigeons will no longer be dragged down by the Earth’s gravity – the Earth will be pulled by the pigeons’ gravity.
The complete 65-stage vehicle to reach the top of the Q1 weighs 3.5 x 1,046 kg. This isn’t just more pigeons than what is on Earth, it’s more massive than it is in the galaxy.
You can make things more efficient by reusing the bathroom. In a 2013 study, researchers gave pigeons 30 seconds to rest on the chick before lowering it for another trial. If every “stage” was 2 seconds, and pigeons were revived after 30 seconds, you could arbitrarily fly a vehicle of 15 stages – but that would require trillions of pigeons.
The best approach may be to avoid carrying the bathroom with you. After all, pigeons can climb to the top of a skyscraper themselves, so you might as well send them forward to wait for you there instead of having their friends carry them with you. If you can train them well enough, you can make them glide along at the appropriate height, then grab you and pull you up for a few seconds when you reach their height. Keep in mind that pigeons cannot grab and carry things with their feet, so they will need small harnesses with aircraft carrier-like hooks to intercept you.
With this arrangement, it is possible to fly yourself to the top of the tower with a few tens of thousands of well-trained pigeons. Perhaps you should make sure that you have some kind of safety system in place that will prevent you from indulging in your own demise every time the hawk flies and scares the pigeons.
Not only will the vehicle be more dangerous than the elevator, it will also be more difficult to choose your destination. you may plan To go to the top of Q1, but once you take off… you’ll be completely under the control of anyone with a seed bag.