Physics of Fairy Tales

National Geographic talks about some folks who decided to put together a traveling science show to demonstrate the physics of fairy tales.

Rapunzel would have broken her neck if the prince climbed up her hair, unless she first wrapped it around something.

In the show Gore uses toilet paper rolls to demonstrate the strength of the story’s enormous beanstalk.

The brown cardboard tube at the center of the roll is quite flimsy, he points out to the audience.

But if several rolls are stood on end in a single horizontal row, a plank of wood placed on top of them can hold a man’s weight without collapsing the cardboard.


A giant plant stalk consisting of several hollow stems wound around each other should therefore be able to support a nimble climber.

The same theory of using hollow cylinders is commonly applied to bridge building, where the structures can provide substantial support while keeping their own weight to a minimum.

I wonder if I could do this in freshman comp without causing problems.

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