This is the script for a recent talk I did for the Global Spooky Science Show. The script goes up to the point where I start doing Maths, at which the slides explained what was going on.
Good morning welcome to my corner of my little corner of the global science show spooky special. Actually, is not morning anyone I think it’s afternoon but that matters not I’m here to talk about the pumpkin chunkin’ competition and it’s going to be fun!
You may have noticed that I am a mathematician so we are going to be doing some calculations.
At this time of the year, if you are in the U.S., watch your head as you may get a nasty orange surprise. Let me set the scene. Imagine you are walking through the fields of Delaware and you hear a projectile heading straight for you. This projectile is setting a speed record that none other would ever be able to break. Naturally, you run before seeing a pumpkin splat onto the ground. You question the fact that a pumpkin nearly decapitated you, before moving on with your day.
First, some background. The pumpkin chunkin’ competition is a big thing all over the United States and the world championship used to be held in Delaware. The event ran annually from 1985 to 2013 but due to a myriad of legal, logistical and other problems had to stop. Luckily, a European championship has been held in Bikschote, Belgium ever since 2004. The aim of the competition is to project a pumpkin the furthest distance using home-built hurlers. There are several categories, but usually the best and furthest throws are by air cannons.
However, that is not of concern to us, what concerns us is the fact that the world record for the pumpkin hurled furthest is held by a team named “Big Ten Inch”. They projected the pumpkin 5545.43 feet, which to us Europeans is 1690.25 m. This record was set on the ninth of September in Moab, Utah and was certified by the Guinness World Records in February 2011.
As unbeatable as this seems, as I mentioned in the introduction to this talk, there is in fact a way not only to beat this record but to make a record so good it’s unbeatable. In science this would mean that we must have a pumpkin moving at its terminal velocity. If something is travelling at terminal velocity that means that it can’t move any faster. It also means that the drag force on the object is equal to the force projecting it forward.