WHY THE FASTEST OBJECT EVER CREATED BY HUMANS WAS A MANHOLE COVER
This story crops up on the internet every once in a while and I love it. Sometimes science is just plain weird.
- •In 1957, the United States commenced "Operation Plumbbob," a nuclear weapons testing program.It took place in Nevada, and was the biggest in the nation's history.
- •One of the tests, code named "Pascal-b," detonated a 0.3 kiloton nuclear weapon underground.
- •A shaft leading up to the surface from the detonation chamber was capped by a welded steel plate that weighed approximately 2000 pounds.A "manhole cover," if you will
- •The force of the explosion instantaneously accelerated the plate to somewhere around 148,000 mph. That's Mach 194, or approximately six times Earth's escape velocityIt was caught in a single frame of a high-speed camera
- •At that speed, the plate would have reached space (~100 km up) in about 1.5 seconds, months before SputnikWhat probably actually happened is it was vaporized by the insane heat of accelerating past escape velocity at sea level
- •Lead researcher for the test, Dr. Brownlee, said the plate went "like a bat out of hell"
- •That's the story of how we made a manhole cover go faster than anything before or since, including Voyager 1 (which is currently in interstellar space) and New Horizons (the probe that took some lovely photos of Pluto this summer), way back in 1957.