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10 Breaking Points

The pressure it takes to break everything from raindrops to stars.

Physical stress can operate in unexpected ways. For example, it takes more pressure to shoot a cork from a bottle of champagne than…By Conor Myhrvold

Physical stress can operate in unexpected ways. For example, it takes more pressure to shoot a cork from a bottle of champagne than to raze a concrete building. If that seems counterintuitive, keep in mind that you don’t need a lot of pressure to generate significant force. After all, the same amount of wind pressure that barely rustles your clothes can propel a yacht. That’s because pressure measures a force’s intensity across a given surface area: The more area you put under pressure, the more force you get.


Here are the magnitudes of pressure, in pascals, it takes to ...

Move the ball to see what breaks when.



Spark of Science: Robbert Dijkgraaf

Robbert Dijkgraaf will sometimes let himself drift back to his childhood attic in the Netherlands. It was there that he did some of his first physics experiments, playing with discarded binocular optics that his father kept stacked in boxes. As...READ MORE

Conor Myhrvold writes about science, technology, and nature. His other work has appeared in Nature, Scientific American, MIT Technology Review, Ars Technica, and Fast Company Labs.

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