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Author Topic: QotW - 10.07.25 - How much gas would it take to lift myself off the ground?  (Read 12455 times)

Offline thedoc

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How much gas would a 10 stone human have to expel (and with what force) in order to lift themselves 1 inch off the ground?
Asked by Matthew


                                       

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« Last Edit: 12/08/2010 16:30:42 by _system »


 

Offline thedoc

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We put this question to Dr Mark Lewney, award-winning science communicator based in Cardiff...
Mark -    If you weigh ten stone, or 63.5 kilograms, then the Earth pulls on you with a gravitational force of 622 Newton which you have to then overcome if you want to lift off for even a fraction of a second.  You have to direct a force at least this strong towards the ground, which according to Newton’s Second Law will be equal to the mass of the gas you expel multiplied by the acceleration given to it by your bowels.  That means you could give an enormous amount of gas a small acceleration or give a tiny mass of gas a huge acceleration. 
So how much does the average emission weigh?  This is quite tricky to measure since methane is lighter than air.  You actually weigh more after letting rip a ripe hum-dinger on boxing day due to a slight loss of buoyancy.  Assuming that is that you don't also follow through with non-gaseous matter; an act commonly known as “sharting”.  Incidentally, pure methane is also completely odourless which proves that every real fart is actually a “shart” in disguise. 
Having asked Jeeves what the mass of the average human trump is, given the density of methane and the pressures and temperatures found in the bowel, he returned - admittedly with his nose turned up even higher than usual - with an answer of 0.037 grams or 0.000037 kilograms.
So, to generate the upward force required to oppose gravity, your bowel muscles must give this mass an acceleration of 622 divided by 0.000037, which equals 17 million metres per second per second, almost 2 million times the force of gravity.  Assuming it’s expelled in a 1 second toot, that yields a final exit velocity of 17,000 kilometres per second which is equal to 37.6 million miles an hour or 18% of the speed of light.
Anyone capable of achieving this feat is invited to contact the UK Space Agency with a view to highly profitable long term employment.
« Last Edit: 12/08/2010 16:30:42 by _system »
 

Offline RD

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Could use all your waste to produce biogas, which is mostly methane,
 then burn the methane to power a hot air balloon to lift you off the ground. 
 

Offline Geezer

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If we are talking about a reaction engine (a jet of sorts) it's not so much the mass of gas as how much you can accelerate it.

If you had one pound of gas, I think you would have to accelerate it by 140 times g (32 ft/sec^2) to achieve "lift off" if you weigh 140 pounds (10 stone) and you are standing on the Earth.

That comes to roughly 4,480 ft/sec^2
 

Offline RD

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If you had one pound of gas ...

Your guts would explode : a pound of methane would take up over 60 litres at STP.

High pressure gas in your bowel is hazardous ...

Compressed Air Kills:
In the U.K., workers were cleaning their clothing with compressed air. One worker stuck the hose between a fellow worker’s legs, from behind. The man suffered bruising and bleeding in the rectum; shock; air in the tissues around his stomach, chest and neck; his hernia canals in the groin area filled with air; the abdomen filled with air; his lower bowel was torn open in 3 places; the abdominal cavity filled with bowel material and blood from his lower bowel; and the lining of his abdominal cavity was torn in several places. Despite surgery, he died 3 days later.

BTW as Vlad the impaler would tell you, your intestines will not support your body weight.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impalement
« Last Edit: 19/07/2010 08:31:46 by RD »
 

Offline Geezer

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If you had one pound of gas ...

Your guts would explode : a pound of methane would take up over 60 litres at STP.

High pressure gas in your bowel is hazardous ...

Compressed Air Kills:
In the U.K., workers were cleaning their clothing with compressed air. One worker stuck the hose between a fellow worker’s legs, from behind. The man suffered bruising and bleeding in the rectum; shock; air in the tissues around his stomach, chest and neck; his hernia canals in the groin area filled with air; the abdomen filled with air; his lower bowel was torn open in 3 places; the abdominal cavity filled with bowel material and blood from his lower bowel; and the lining of his abdominal cavity was torn in several places. Despite surgery, he died 3 days later.

BTW as Vlad the impaler would tell you, your intestines will not support your body weight.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impalement


Well, yes. There are a few minor practicalities to consider.

Another slight problem would be cooling. Assuming the gas had been stored under sufficient pressure to achieve lift off prior to being released, the rapid expansion when it returned to atmospheric pressure would have a rather extreme cooling effect.

I think it might, quite literally, freeze the subject's a*s off.
« Last Edit: 19/07/2010 19:12:42 by Geezer »
 

Offline RD

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Maybe store the gas in a robust CO2 type gas cylinder ...

See this youtube video from 2:44 onwards
 

Offline Eric A. Taylor

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There is a fairly simple equation to figure out how much thrust you need to accelerate a given mass to a given "delta V" (change in velocity..."velocity" is a vector, speed and direction).

The simplest answer neglects the mass change due to the burn, and just derives thrust F from velocity change dv, time t and mass m. Acceleration a = dv/t = 0.6 m/s^2. F = ma = 12000 N.

You'll need to know the mass of whatever is being used to create the thrust. Human flatulence is usually (if you're in good health) composed mostly by normal air Nitrogen: 20–90% Hydrogen: 0–50% Carbon dioxide: 10–30% Oxygen: 0–10% Methane: 0–10%. There are tiny amounts of other gasses which are responsible for the smell.

To lift off the Earth you need a delta V greater than 1G or 32 feet per second. This is quite a lot of thrust for the average sized human. It'd think the pressures required would cause a rupture in the holding tank which I imagine would be extremely painful and quite likely fatal (considering the "tank" is your guts).
 

Offline RD

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Could use all your waste to produce biogas, which is mostly methane,
 then burn the methane to power a hot air balloon ...


or power a VW "dung" beetle ...



Quote
Engineers from GENeco, a sustainable-energy company owned by Wessex Water, has unveiled a modified Volkswagen Beetle that runs on compressed methane gas extracted from human waste. A Dung Beetle, if you will.

Biogas is generated when filth from Wessex Water's sewage works is put into a decomposition container, where oxygen-starved bacteria break it down to produce methane. The methane is then harvested and placed in tanks inside the boot of the Beetle, where it can be used to power the car's slightly modified engine.


*The waste from 70 homes can generate enough gas to run the car for 10,000 miles

http://crave.cnet.co.uk/cartech/fart-powered-vw-beetle-tested-in-uk-50000253/

*What's that in "miles per turd" ?  :)
« Last Edit: 08/08/2010 19:21:32 by RD »
 

Offline chris

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The fart-lift-off-phenomenon relies on Newton's lesser-known "turd" law...
 

Offline Geezer

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That would alter the math quite a bit. If the "object" had sufficient mass and it was accelerated quite a bit, in a low gravity situation, liftoff might actually be possible.  If they ever build a base on the Moon, they might want to consider installing seat belts on the cans.
 

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