December 07, 2020
My first recollection of the harm a dropped object can cause was in my youth when touring the Empire State Building in New York City. I remember over-hearing, “If you drop a penny or pen from the Empire State Building and it lands on someone, it could kill them.” You may have heard this anecdote too.
For some reason, that stuck with me — how something so small, like a penny or ballpoint pen, could turn into a dangerous weapon when dropped from a height.
The Empire State Building is 1,250 feet tall, so it was easy to believe what I overheard. I have since learned that because a penny’s lightweight, flat round shape, and the fact that it experiences a lot of air resistance would most likely not kill someone if tossed from the Empire State Building.
However, according to Louis Bloomfield, physicist at the University of Virginia, “falling ballpoint pens are the real danger. If someone nonchalantly tossed one of those off the top of the Empire State Building,