Professor Swings Wrecking Ball, Waits for It To Crash into Face to Prove Point


Have you seen any of Dr. Walter Lewin’s lectures?

He is a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose extremely intriguing lectures have made him a YouTube sensation.

In a viral clip, Dr. Lewin demonstrated the conservation of mechanical energy in a radical way. In the middle of the stage, he installed a pendulum with a ball that weighed 15 kilograms (or about 33 pounds). Much like a wrecking ball used in deconstruction.

According to the principle mentioned above, a pendulum cannot go any higher than the height it was originally released. This is true until another force, like speed or friction, comes into play.

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If the ball in the middle of the stage dropped from one meter high, the ball will swing down and reach the exact same height on the other side and would continue to do so.

He demonstrated his small wrecking ball’s potential to cause damage by picking it up and letting it swing into a pane of glass. The glass, unable to withstand the force, shattered onto the floor.

Dr. Lewin explained that by placing the pane of glass at the same height that the pendulum was released, he was utilizing the ball’s conservation of mechanical energy.

Had the pane been placed any higher or the ball had been released at a lower point, the ball would not have come into contact with the glass.

“I am such a strong believer in the conservation of mechanical energy that I am willing to put my life on the line,” he said.

He then went on to reiterate that the ball could not reach a height larger than the height it was released from as long as there was no initial speed added.

“I trust the conservation of mechanical energy 400 percent,” he said as he lifted the ball up to his chin. He trusts the principle of physics more than he trusts himself.

He continued, “I am going to release this object and I hope I will be able to do it at zero speed.” If done successfully, the ball would only touch his chin.

Obviously nervous, he asked his class to be quiet so he could focus on not adding speed to the ball. He knew if done incorrectly that this lecture would be his last.

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“Three, two, one, zero,” he counted down.

In an extremely tense moment, the wrecking swung from his chin to the other side of the stage and back towards him. Only barely missing his chin.

Dr. Lewin declared, “Physics works and I am still alive!”

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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