Anyone who has ever played a spirited game of ping pong knows that the plastic balls are relatively fragile. But those delicate spheres can do some serious damage—when turned into 500 mph projectiles. In a new video (above) from Tested, hosts Norman Chan and Kishore Hari are joined by Zeke Kossover from the Exploratorium in San Francisco for an experiment involving a ping pong ball, a soda can, and a device called a "vacuum cannon."
The reason ping pong balls don't hurt when they're thrown is because of air resistance. As Kossover explains: "The ping pong ball, for its size, has a lot of air resistance. They're about two and a half grams, and they're fairly large for two and a half grams, so the wind resistance slows them down super fast. Even if you were to hit it at 60 miles an hour, by the time it gets to the other side of the table it's only going about 10 miles an hour." The key to getting the ball to move faster is to remove air from the equation, which is where the vacuum cannon comes into play.
After sealing each end of the cannon's tube with mylar sheets, Kossover draws the air out of the tube with the vacuum, then punctures one end so that air is allowed to rush back in. According to Kossover, that leads to about 45 pounds of force pushing on about two and a half grams (.00551156 pounds) of ping pong ball. In other words, it's a whole lot of energy barreling toward the unsuspecting aluminum can.
Watch the full experiment above, or check out the GIF below to skip to the satisfying result.
Images via Tested on YouTube