The hazardous fun of being a human cannonball

 It is a common place that war and technological progress go hand in hand. As U2 sings in their song “Zooropa”: “Vorsprung durch Technik”.

 His idea being really progressively thats what Ildebrando Zacchini thought when he proposed to the Italian government using human cannonballs (with parachutes) as military entering maneuver. I have no knowledge about their reasons, but they rejected his idea. Maybe they thought, that this strategy looks not really serious. Imagine, fully armored man flying by being shot out of cannons. It seems to look somehow ridiculous.

 Anyway, Ildebrando was unflinching and took advantage of the grotesque and daring aspects of this maneuver. In 1922 his son Hugo flew as the first human cannonball through the circus ring right into a net. Ildebrandos militaristic idea was transformed into an artistic act with Emanuel Zacchini, in 1939, flying above three giant wheels over the horizontal distance of 69 meters.

 But would I dare to take that risk? Two points have to be considered.

 First, am I sure to exactly land in the net? Take, i.e., Emanuels flight. Three giant wheels, each 18 meters high, whereas the distance between the first and the third giant wheel is 23 meters. To determine where to place the centre of the net one has to regard several facts. The exit angle, the initial velocity, and air resistance. Fortunately, this is a question of sure classical mechanics. Halliday, i.e., proposes a calculation in his Physics. So its quite easy to determine the position of the net, although some indeterminacy is given, since the complex effects of air resistance cannot comprehensively be taken into account. But one can respond to it relative easy: take a large enough net and place it a little bit nearer to the cannon than the calculus indicates.

 However second, there is another subtle danger. Emanuel often lost his conscience due to the acceleration within the cannon. So the risk is that in landing unconsciously you could break your neck. Thats why Emanuel had to train himself to rapidly awake from unconsciousness.

 Well, so it seems, being a human cannonball is really hazardous!


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