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-   -   Do people explode on impact when they fall from great heights? (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=692371)

donnie darko 05-29-2013 06:40 PM

Do people explode on impact when they fall from great heights?
 
A really morbid question, I know and I apologize. But like the false belief that you'd explode without a spacesuit in space, it's very pervasive and often passed on as common knowledge.

I read a witness of the 9/11 attacks describe the falling of a so-called "jumper' by saying "By the time they hit the ground, there was nothing left. "

Personally, I'm very skeptical of this and I think the witness is likely recalling the incident as being even more visually horrible than it actually was. I witnessed a relatively minor car accident as a teen, the victim only had a nosebleed but it looked very scary and disturbing nonetheless and I could imagine someone falsely recalling they were more injured than they actually were.

I think the injury would be more comparable to someone who got hit by a truck - still very gruesome and catastrophic, but leaving a mangled corpse that's recognizable as a human being. The human body is only about 60-70% water, it's much more solid and much less brittle than a watermelon. I think they would die instantly to brain trauma and some of their limbs might sever due to being bent so quickly and surely the internal damage would be catastrophic but I don't think their bodies would turn into unrecognizable mush.

The 9/11 jumpers only fell about 800 feet or so, much less than people who die in sky diving or mountain climbing accidents. I've never heard of people who fall off of Yosemite's half dome exploding on impact. Then again they did land on concrete as opposed to dirt but I doubt at that speed the substance even matters all that much.

The woman who committed suicide and landed on a car by jumping off the Empire State Building had a very intact (and still beautiful, at least in black and white) body, there's a very famous photograph of it.

The only thing I can think of that's confirmed a person to have "exploded" are diving bell decompression accidents, such as the Byford Dolphin incident in Norway back in 1983.

What do you think the "straight dope" on exploding falling bodies is?

Senegoid 05-29-2013 07:03 PM

Well, I read something (and I vaguely think it was here on SDMB, or maybe one of Cecil's columns or a staff column) about that. The description was, not so much that bodies "explode", but more that they splatter. But they splatter so violently that there's nothing much left. That was the message that I seem to recall taking away from it.

Stay tuned . . . If I can find a link quickly, I'll be back with it. . .

Broomstick 05-29-2013 07:10 PM

Based on what I have been told by my skydiving friends a lot depends on what you land on. Bodies can literally bounce, for example, sometimes more than once, after a parachute fails to open. They can also be buried in part or in whole, if the ground they hit is soft enough. Parts can also detach, especially if a limb breaks across something relatively narrow that sort of acts like a blade. Against very hard objects there can be a LOT of detachment and splattering bodily fluids - I myself witnessed then when I was riding a train that his a suicide waiting on the tracks.

In the case of falling from a skyscraper, hitting awnings, overhands, and various other building bits on the way down might disassemble a body. If, however, there are no such obstacles a body will arrive at the ground intact (after arrival it may be less intact).

Senegoid 05-29-2013 07:15 PM

Well, okay, upon googling, literally the first hit I got is:
Quote:

Originally Posted by First Google search result for "falling bodies explode":
Can the human body explode on impact?, page 1 - Above Top Secret
www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread470803/pg1 - Cached
Does a human body really explode into nothing when it falls at terminal ... I feel that your fear of falling from great heights is there for a reason.

. . . and taking a look there, I see that someone we know was researching this question in July of 2009:
Quote:

Originally Posted by Donnie Darko
Can the human body explode on impact?, page 1

Topic started on 7-6-2009 @ 09:35 PM by Donnie Darko
My greatest death fear is to fall from a great height. I think it might have even happened to me in a past life, and that is why I am so afraid of it and disgusted by it.

Does a human body really explode into nothing when it falls at terminal velocity to the ground? Or does it just get mangled beyond recognition?

So I guess there's already enough discoussion out there.

Andy L 05-29-2013 07:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Senegoid (Post 16334850)
Well, I read something (and I vaguely think it was here on SDMB, or maybe one of Cecil's columns or a staff column) about that. The description was, not so much that bodies "explode", but more that they splatter. But they splatter so violently that there's nothing much left. That was the message that I seem to recall taking away from it.

Stay tuned . . . If I can find a link quickly, I'll be back with it. . .

from the essay "On Being the Right Size" by J. B. S. Haldane:

"You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mine shaft; and, on arriving at
the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away, provided that the ground is
fairly soft. A rat is killed, a man is broken, a horse splashes." http://irl.cs.ucla.edu/papers/right-size.html

donnie darko 05-29-2013 07:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Andy L (Post 16334909)
from the essay "On Being the Right Size" by J. B. S. Haldane:

"You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mine shaft; and, on arriving at
the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away, provided that the ground is
fairly soft. A rat is killed, a man is broken, a horse splashes." http://irl.cs.ucla.edu/papers/right-size.html

Fascinating.

donnie darko 05-29-2013 07:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Senegoid (Post 16334887)
Well, okay, upon googling, literally the first hit I got is:

. . . and taking a look there, I see that someone we know was researching this question in July of 2009:


So I guess there's already enough discoussion out there.

Yeah, that was me lol. I thought Straight Dope would be more interested in it than ATS and that I might get better, more skeptical answers.

I've thought about it a lot since my dad told me about Conor Clapton's death when I was a little kid. It fascinates and disgusts me at the same time.

Hail Ants 05-29-2013 07:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Broomstick (Post 16334872)
Based on what I have been told by my skydiving friends a lot depends on what you land on. Bodies can literally bounce, for example, sometimes more than once, after a parachute fails to open.

In the early eighties my brother skydived (skydove?) a lot, and he said that the term 'bounce' was used as a general, humorous/sobering euphemism for anyone dying from a chute malfunction (regardless of what kind of surface they hit).

In regards to 9/11 jumpers, I can say that there definitely are a few videos out there of them hitting the concrete pavement near the base of the towers, and yes I've seen them, and yes they pretty much became "pink mist" due to their speed & hardness of the ground. Decorum dictates not providing a link but they're not too difficult to find. Also, in the very first documentary about the attack which aired about a month after and was simply called "9/11" (it was done by the two French filmmakers who were documenting a NYC firehouse and caught the first plane hitting the towers) you can hear jumpers hitting the pavement while they're shooting in the lobby of one of the towers. The sound was incredibly loud, like a dumpster being dropped. So loud that the two filmmakers didn't know what it was but the firemen, obviously jumpers being a familiar occurrence to them, did.

Leo Bloom 05-29-2013 07:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Andy L (Post 16334909)
from the essay "On Being the Right Size" by J. B. S. Haldane:

"You can drop a mouse down a thousand-yard mine shaft; and, on arriving at
the bottom, it gets a slight shock and walks away, provided that the ground is
fairly soft. A rat is killed, a man is broken, a horse splashes." http://irl.cs.ucla.edu/papers/right-size.html

This is a (or should be) classic essay.

ETA: a thread I op'ed on how high can ants fall from.

Leo Bloom 05-29-2013 07:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Hail Ants (Post 16334927)
.... So loud that the two filmmakers didn't know what it was but the firemen, obviously jumpers being a familiar occurrence to them, did.

My sense of those shots were of the unease and fright-- and when firemen get uneasy and frightened something's really bad-- not only at the raindrop frequency, but some of the young firemen looked like they had never been on a scene with a jumper at all.

Hail Ants 05-29-2013 08:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Leo Bloom (Post 16334937)
My sense of those shots were of the unease and fright-- and when firemen get uneasy and frightened something's really bad-- not only at the raindrop frequency, but some of the young firemen looked like they had never been on a scene with a jumper at all.

It was also during this scene in the lobby that one of the filmmakers states in his narration that he saw an elevator door open and a person come out completely engulfed in flames. He says that against his documentary-making instincts he deliberately did NOT turn the camera towards it because at this point into things he felt, "No one needs to see that..."

nearwildheaven 05-29-2013 09:20 PM

That "9/11" movie is very good, and was aired on network TV uncensored for the first couple of anniversaries. Haven't seen it since.

As for body parts being severed in a fall, anyone remember that news story some years back about two skydivers who collided during freefall, and one of them lost both legs this way? Both survived, BTW.

donnie darko 05-29-2013 10:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Hail Ants (Post 16334927)
In the early eighties my brother skydived (skydove?) a lot, and he said that the term 'bounce' was used as a general, humorous/sobering euphemism for anyone dying from a chute malfunction (regardless of what kind of surface they hit).

In regards to 9/11 jumpers, I can say that there definitely are a few videos out there of them hitting the concrete pavement near the base of the towers, and yes I've seen them, and yes they pretty much became "pink mist" due to their speed & hardness of the ground. Decorum dictates not providing a link but they're not too difficult to find. Also, in the very first documentary about the attack which aired about a month after and was simply called "9/11" (it was done by the two French filmmakers who were documenting a NYC firehouse and caught the first plane hitting the towers) you can hear jumpers hitting the pavement while they're shooting in the lobby of one of the towers. The sound was incredibly loud, like a dumpster being dropped. So loud that the two filmmakers didn't know what it was but the firemen, obviously jumpers being a familiar occurrence to them, did.

Are you talking about that really blurry one on YouTube or are there other videos of them that are higher quality? I'd be curious to see them - if I could stomach it.

Senegoid 05-30-2013 12:44 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by donnie darko (Post 16334923)
Yeah, that was me lol. I thought Straight Dope would be more interested in it than ATS and that I might get better, more skeptical answers.

Well, but of course! You've got that right, and you've come to the right place! That's just axiomatic.

You'll find none of that stoopid stuff here, like:
Q: How is babby formed?
A: They need to do way instain mother . . .
No cesspit of stupidity here! (Discussion.)

Hail Ants 05-30-2013 01:31 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by donnie darko (Post 16335295)
Are you talking about that really blurry one on YouTube or are there other videos of them that are higher quality? I'd be curious to see them - if I could stomach it.

The one I saw was not blurry, and it was most definitely not on YouTube. It was probably the old gore site ogrish dot-com. After the second Gulf War started they frequently posted unedited terrorist beheading videos too (most unpleasant...)

GiantRat 05-30-2013 03:07 AM

I picked up those bodies. Many were "intact," so to speak - the bones broken. Basically the equivalent of rubber sacks. There were compound fractures, of course, but they didn't explode.

Dammit, I'm going to have nightmares again.

Leo Bloom 05-30-2013 03:25 AM

It was good of you to respond.

Helping us understand, perhaps, may help you. Your nightmares give meaning to the world.

Machine Elf 05-30-2013 06:23 AM

I asked the same question six months ago.

jtur88 05-30-2013 10:07 AM

A falling body in atmosphere doesn't keep accelerating indefinitely. Air resistance sets an upper limit to falling speed, and as I recall, a human body peaks at about 110 mph and then stops accelerating after 5 or 6 seconds. When the limit is reached, the speed remains constant the rest of the way down. What that limit is, for various falling bodies, is a function of mass and surface profile and streamlined shape of the object. A small bug would reach maximum velocity jumping off a chair. A feather pretty much starts out at maximum velocity, and can be blown back up byslight turbulence.

Ludovic 05-30-2013 10:12 AM

One, nothing wrong with me
Two, nothing wrong with me

md2000 05-30-2013 10:19 AM

yeah, I have a copy of that 9/11 movie on DVD. Very moving. Also, the only video of the first plane hitting the first tower.

IIRC from the search for MIA in Vietnam, someone mentioned that they could tell if the pilot died in the crash or not. If the pilot experienced a suddne stop from 600mph to zero, the sides of their boots blew out from the sudden pressure wave of bodily fluids.

of course, a terminal velocity for a falling body on its own is about 100mph so as mentioned above, it depends on the hardness of the impact surface.

Machine Elf 05-30-2013 10:27 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by md2000 (Post 16336396)
IIRC from the search for MIA in Vietnam, someone mentioned that they could tell if the pilot died in the crash or not. If the pilot experienced a suddne stop from 600mph to zero, the sides of their boots blew out from the sudden pressure wave of bodily fluids.

In a 600-to-zero vertical impact , the aircraft parts will obliterate any human being caught between them and the ground; you're not likely to find any boots, intact or otherwise, in the wreckage.

md2000 05-30-2013 10:33 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Machine Elf (Post 16336435)
In a 600-to-zero vertical impact , the aircraft parts will obliterate any human being caught between them and the ground; you're not likely to find any boots, intact or otherwise, in the wreckage.

Of course, we're talking about relatively softer impacts - wet rice paddies, etc.

bob++ 05-30-2013 10:44 AM

The "Do cats always land unharmed on their feet, no matter how far they fall?" thread might also be relevant.
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/...-far-they-fall

Machine Elf 05-30-2013 11:58 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by md2000 (Post 16336462)
Of course, we're talking about relatively softer impacts - wet rice paddies, etc.

At 600MPH, "soft" doesn't matter much. People who jump off of the Golden Gate Bridge into nice soft water (traveling at 110 MPH at best) tend to die from massive blunt-force trauma: the impact with the water shatters bones and crushes organs.

TreacherousCretin 05-30-2013 01:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Hail Ants (Post 16334927)
Also, in the very first documentary about the attack which aired about a month after and was simply called "9/11" (it was done by the two French filmmakers who were documenting a NYC firehouse and caught the first plane hitting the towers) you can hear jumpers hitting the pavement while they're shooting in the lobby of one of the towers. The sound was incredibly loud, like a dumpster being dropped. So loud that the two filmmakers didn't know what it was but the firemen, obviously jumpers being a familiar occurrence to them, did.

I have that video. I'm pretty sure those startlingly loud impacts came from jumpers who were landing on the roof of the lobby. Notice that the firefighters kept looking up when they'd hear one.

bump 05-30-2013 02:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Machine Elf (Post 16336435)
In a 600-to-zero vertical impact , the aircraft parts will obliterate any human being caught between them and the ground; you're not likely to find any boots, intact or otherwise, in the wreckage.

Yeah. plus I'd think that in any scenario that a pilot would get killed in the crash or in the air, the results of a crash on the pilot's body would be pretty similar.

Am I right in thinking that a 600 mph crash wouldn't really be something you'd feel as a pilot? One second it would be "OH crap!" and then lights out- you and your brain would be all squished up before any nerve impulses from your body could actually reach it, right?

Wakinyan 05-30-2013 02:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Andy L (Post 16334909)
from the essay "On Being the Right Size" by J. B. S. Haldane:

/.../ http://irl.cs.ucla.edu/papers/right-size.html

So no mad scientist will ever be able create giant insects to attack us all, if I understand Haldane correctly? Phew.

fiddlesticks 05-30-2013 04:35 PM

If you saw Best in Show, the scene with Larry Miller the "hostage negotiator" who describes what happens to a body of a person who jumps from a tall building ("They all jump!") ... basically the abdomen splits open and intestines spray out... Anyhow, fairly accurate, apparently.

FallFast 05-30-2013 05:43 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by nearwildheaven (Post 16335129)
That "9/11" movie is very good, and was aired on network TV uncensored for the first couple of anniversaries. Haven't seen it since.

As for body parts being severed in a fall, anyone remember that news story some years back about two skydivers who collided during freefall, and one of them lost both legs this way? Both survived, BTW.

If its the one I am thinking of they were with the Golden Knights and in 1994 they collided during a high speed crossing maneuver Sgt. Jose Aguillon was killed and Sgt. Dana Bowman lost part of both legs.

Noel Prosequi 05-30-2013 09:14 PM

Did a death inquest once into the death of a parachutist whose chute failed to deploy. He landed in a cow paddock prone (can't recall if on front or back). He was embedded about 6 inches into the ground. All bones broken, but his skin (perhaps supported by his jumpsuit) managed to contain all his organs - no bursting, splattering, etc.

Still not a pretty sight.

Hail Ants 05-30-2013 09:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TreacherousCretin (Post 16337018)
I have that video. I'm pretty sure those startlingly loud impacts came from jumpers who were landing on the roof of the lobby. Notice that the firefighters kept looking up when they'd hear one.

Ah, did the lobby of one of the towers have a roof that extended out into the plaza?! Cause otherwise what roof was there to hit?! And I think the firefighters looking up would just be a reflex to the sound of any jumpers impacting.

Quote:

Originally Posted by md2000 (Post 16336396)
yeah, I have a copy of that 9/11 movie on DVD. Very moving. Also, the only video of the first plane hitting the first tower.

Actually, to nitpick, the is one other shot of it that was discovered much later. It's from a security camera at a toll plaza someplace. It's far enough away that it's only a very tiny part of the upper corner of the image, but it's clearly the first plane hitting.

md2000 05-31-2013 12:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bump (Post 16337259)
Yeah. plus I'd think that in any scenario that a pilot would get killed in the crash or in the air, the results of a crash on the pilot's body would be pretty similar.

The "burst boots" was in the context of determining from the very old buried remains whether the pilot died on impact, or survived (parachute?) and was killed by local soldiers.

aceplace57 05-31-2013 12:50 PM

I've read news reports that victims in plane breakups lose their clothing during the fall. I don't even want to imagine what happened when the hit the ground.

There was a bad passenger plane breakup in Central America a few years ago. I can't recall many details except that the victims were scattered in a wide area and most had lost clothing during the fall.

TreacherousCretin 05-31-2013 03:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Hail Ants (Post 16338333)
Ah, did the lobby of one of the towers have a roof that extended out into the plaza?

I don't know about the lobby itself, but the outdoor area immediately adjacent, separated from the lobby only by glass windows, was covered.

Besides which, in the video, the sounds the firefighters react to are loud, resonating, bangs; not the sound one would expect from a mostly fluid human body hitting solid pavement.
But I really don't know what I'm talking about here, so decide for yourself-- The first instance in the video comes about 30 seconds into this section:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1u...s#.UakFA5xkltE

ftg 06-01-2013 09:12 AM

Regarding what happens when a plane breaks up:

The Moore tornado was an F4 with a couple peaks at F5. Most the the damage you see is from winds 200-250 mph. A plane breaking up due a dive could be going 500-600 mph. So at least twice a fast. But remember that wind resistance goes up with the cube of velocity. So basically 8 times the force of the Moore tornado.

Yeah, it's going to do terrible things to humans.

Probably best to die instantly rather than survive the breakup with a 20,000 ft fall as your future.

Someone jumped off the four story library at my college. One of my profs happened to just be going thru the doors at the time into the library when the guy hit the ground behind the prof. Didn't turn around, kept walking in. Knew what it was. Strange how we "know" certain sounds even if we haven't heard them before.

Johnny L.A. 06-01-2013 09:17 AM

I worked with a guy who had been a Marine. He said they were on an exercise involving parachuting (he was on the ground). He said that a Marine's 'chute became tangled, and he deployed the reserve 'chute before the main chute had been jettisoned (or whatever you call it when you get rid of the main 'chute). The Marine's body had a stream of red coming from it, like stepping on a catsup packet.

sparky! 06-01-2013 10:02 AM

In regards to the covered lobby at WTC on 9/11: there is video of jumpers hitting the steel roof and just punching holes right through, like a bullet punching through a soda can.

There are photos of a jumper who appeared to land on a side walk. Basically, it looked like their guts exploded out in a mess of intestines, and there legs crumpled messily (if I remember right, really regret viewing that many years ago).

Worst I recall hearing about was someone in a BASE jumping wing suit who planned to fly through a bridge opening. He clipped the railing (?) and was messily cut in two. I'm sure similar things occur when jumping from a tall structure, depending on what you strike before contacting the ground.

Machine Elf 06-01-2013 10:04 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ftg (Post 16341855)
But remember that wind resistance goes up with the cube of velocity. So basically 8 times the force of the Moore tornado.

This is incorrect: aerodynamic drag force scales with the square of velocity, not the cube. The power requirement scales with the cube (since power = force * speed): this is why getting a car at 200MPH takes 8 times the power of a car at 100 MPH.

Koxinga 06-01-2013 10:10 AM

Glory, glory, that's a hell of a way to die.

Leo Bloom 06-01-2013 10:37 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Noel Prosequi (Post 16338289)
...He landed in a cow paddock prone (can't recall if on front or back)...

:confused: "Prone" means belly down...

Also: In another thread a reply was from a poster who took part in the body recovery of the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia's aerodynamic breakup. He was guarded in his comments relative to this thread, but what he implied was almost unimaginable.

Machine Elf 06-01-2013 02:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Leo Bloom (Post 16342020)
:confused: "Prone" means belly down...

Also: In another thread a reply was from a poster who took part in the body recovery of the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia's aerodynamic breakup. He was guarded in his comments relative to this thread, but what he implied was almost unimaginable.

Columbia was indeed hauling ass when it broke up, but the breakup took place at an altitude of around 200,000 feet, where the air was extremely thin. Although Mach heating resulted in extremely high temperatures for any object (or body) exposed to the slip stream, the g-load due to ram air pressure on a body wasn't all that high; it would have been equivalent to falling through sea-level air at about 205 MPH. That's faster than a freefalling skydiver, but not as fast as some pilots have ejected from fighter jets.

slowlearner 06-01-2013 08:31 PM

Currahee!
 
Quote:

The whole mess took place in a matter of seconds as, from front row seats, we saw the men fall to their deaths.
They bounced a couple of feet in the air. I couldn't get over the fact that they bounced; it never occured to me that a human body would do that.
Quote:

The man hit a few yards away, making a sound like a large mattress going 'floomp' against the ground, and for the second time in a week I witnessed a man hitting the ground so hard he actually bounced. Limping over, I looked down at him and nearly fell over when he opened his eyes and asked me, 'What happened?' Who else but a chaplain could fall 1000 feet with an unopened chute and live?
This is from Donald Burgett's memoir of the 101st Airborne, CURRAHEE! Great book, beats the hell out of Band of Brothers.

Elendil's Heir 06-01-2013 08:49 PM

As my dad always said, it's not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop at the end.

Senegoid 06-01-2013 09:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir (Post 16343211)
As my dad always said, it's not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop at the end.

"So far, so good!"

dropzone 06-01-2013 10:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ftg (Post 16341855)
Probably best to die instantly rather than survive the breakup with a 20,000 ft fall as your future.

One of my college roommates was flying a rented Cessna when the wing broke off. I don't like to think about his trip down.
Quote:

Someone jumped off the four story library at my college. One of my profs happened to just be going thru the doors at the time into the library when the guy hit the ground behind the prof. Didn't turn around, kept walking in. Knew what it was. Strange how we "know" certain sounds even if we haven't heard them before.
In that video, immediately after the first bang, I think I heard one of the firemen say, "Jumper!" I'd rather not be able to recognize some sounds.

jtur88 06-02-2013 12:51 AM

I once saw the body of a jumper on the ground, cement in an alley, about a 5 to 10story building.. He was just dead, face down, and looked like he was asleep. Apparently , "hit like a sack of feed" (acknowledgements to Larry Verne.)


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