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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 …

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Move the ball to see what breaks when.

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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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