The Null Device

What goes up must come down

A new Ku Klux Klan recruit has been critically wounded when a bullet fired into the air fell on his head, penetrating his skull. Champagne comedy, folks...
About 10 people, including two children, had gathered for the ceremony. The man who was being initiated was blindfolded, tied with a noose to a tree and shot with paintball guns as Freeman fired a pistol in the air to provide the sound of real gunfire, Sheriff Fred Phillips said.
Freeman fled the ceremony but was arrested near his home, authorities said. He was released on $7,500 bail.

Ah, those Klansmen. Every bit as brave as they are smart.

There are 3 comments on "What goes up must come down":

Posted by: mitch http:// Wed Nov 26 09:29:21 2003

One hears this occasionally from generally gun-happy cultures (e.g. where they shoot in the air at weddings). It always surprises me that you can be killed by a falling bullet. Think of it this way: Suppose you had a very tall skyscraper, and you just dropped a bullet from a window. How many floors up would you have to be for it had a chance of killing a pedestrian? That must be how high a vertically fired bullet goes in these situations.

More physics... Conservation of energy implies that when the bullet returns to the height from which it was fired, it will be moving at the same velocity that it left the gun - except for the effects of air resistance, which are probably negligible (what's terminal velocity for something as small and hard as a bullet? probably quite high).

One more thought... If we go back to that imaginary skyscraper. If you knew in advance how high the bullet would reach before it began to fall back to Earth, you could grab it out of the air, just like Keanu. That would be quite a

Posted by: acb Wed Nov 26 11:19:47 2003

Wasn't somebody once killed by a penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building?

Posted by: Joe Thu Nov 27 13:24:49 2003

I'd suspect that terminal velocity would be less than the velocity of a bullet leaving the barrel. Bullets are darn fast, supersonic, whereas someone falling at terminal velocity is visible to the naked eye.

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