I Rented A Helicopter To Settle A Physics Debate

I Rented A Helicopter To Settle A Physics Debate

The story of a controversial physics question on the qualifying exam for the 2014 US Physics Olympiad team. How does a uniform cable beneath a helicopter hang? Visit https://SimpliSafe.com/veritasium to learn more and to get at least 30% off your SimpliSafe security system! Thanks to SimpliSafe for sponsoring a portion of this video.

Thanks to Scott Smith and the Perris Valley Airport for hosting us. You can follow their social media @skydive_perris and learn more about them at https://skydiveperris.com/
Thanks to Craig Hosking for being our expert helicopter pilot.
Thanks to Professor Paul Stanley for the interview and for writing such an interesting question.

The Exam — https://ve42.co/AAPT2014Exam
The Solution — https://ve42.co/AAPT2014Solutions

Special thanks to Patreon supporters: S S, Andrew, Benedikt Heinen, Diffbot, Micah Mangione, MJP, Gnare, Dave Kircher, Edward Larsen, Burt Humburg, Blake Byers, Dumky, Evgeny Skvortsov, Meekay, Bill Linder, Paul Peijzel, Mac Malkawi, Michael Schneider, Big Badaboom, Ludovic Robillard, jim buckmaster, Juan Benet, Ruslan Khroma, Robert Blum, Richard Sundvall, Lee Redden, Vincent, Marinus Kuivenhoven, Alfred Wallace, Clayton Greenwell, Michael Krugman, Cy ‘kkm’ K’Nelson, Sam Lutfi, Ron Neal

Written by Derek Muller, Emily Zhang, and Petr Lebedev
Filmed by Derek Muller, Trenton Oliver, and Emily Zhang
Edited by Trenton Oliver
Animation by Mike Radjabov
Music from Epidemic Sounds
Additional video supplied by Getty Images
Produced by Derek Muller, Petr Lebedev, and Emily Zhang

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46 Responses

  1. Mattia Conti says:

    “air friction is not negligible” is the worst statement somebody ever told me

  2. Alexis Garcia Caperos says:

    Pilot: “if it goes wrong it would mean total destruction of the aircraft”
    Everyone: ok, lets try it

  3. CarthagoMike says:

    That Pilot seems like such a nice guy. He was really into the experiment as well, rather than just flying.

  4. Murphey Law says:

    Derek, my dude, there’s easier and cheaper ways to do forearm day 😛

    In all seriousness, I guessed completely wrong on the multiple choices. This was a great learning experience.

  5. Idontwantyourcookie says:

    “Rotor wash doesn’t extend that far below the helicopter”

    It sounds like the entire question relies on the knowledge of this aviation trivia to actually complete, how mean

    • Pit Mezzari says:

      Many people surprisingly have no idea rotor wash is even a thing.

    • Treblaine says:

      You need to provide two answers factoring whether the rotor wash is negligible or not.

    • Kevin Vermeer says:

      The question can still be answered because rotor wash is obviously not infinite. Whether it matters for a 5′ rope, Derek’s 50′ rope, or a hypothetical cable 5000′ long still allows you to answer the question about the general shape.

    • peelsreklaw says:

      @Quarkonium I mean…that just sounds like you didn’t know enough physics. No shame in that.

      It’s not that it “can be neglected” like this is a paper physics test, it’s that it actually is negligible IRL.

    • UK man loves goddesses says:

      @Pit Mezzari _”Many people surprisingly have no idea rotor wash is even a thing.”_
      It’s how my washing machine gets the clothes clean.

  6. Simon A says:

    Physics students can be expected to know generalities about tension, drag, motion etc.. but it doesn’t seem fair to expect them to know specifically how far the wash of a helicopter rotor extends or how the body influences that.

  7. YouTuber Singing Moments says:

    Now add the parachute to the middle of the rope with the kettlebell at the end to get answer E.

  8. Agustín Franco says:

    i love how the teacher is like “this is hard AF to answer, i dont think even i could get it right, lets put it in an important exam, it will be FUN”

    • Loganlm10 says:

      Right? Like wtf. If someone with a masters degree is wrong how do they expect 18 year olds who don’t even wanna come to class to get it 😂

    • jeninjose911 says:

      It’s for the US Physics Olympiad entrance exam. Those kids are ridiculously smart.

    • Daniel Lam says:

      “Let’s increase the fun by removing the weight”

    • Loganlm10 says:

      @jeninjose911 oh kinda nvm then, for some reason I was comparing this to the ap physics I took in highschool which I’m sure is very different then this 😂

  9. Anant Anupam says:

    I sucked at physics tests in school, but always thought it to be more intuitive than the formulae/theorems made it out to be. I feel so validated to be right this time, but that could be a re-beginner’s luck 😄

  10. Integza says:

    I whish I had a physics professor that would go to such lengths to prove a concept

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