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Grabbing something at Terminal Velocity

  1. Aug 11, 2012 #1
    I know in Hollywood people fall a couple stories and grab onto a pole or something and survive, which most of the time doesn't seem too far fetched. But what if you were falling at terminal velocity and grabbed onto a horizontal pole? (The pole being a cantilever, and not flexible or anything at all, like a real world scenario)

    Suppose if you grabbed onto it with both arms, would the force just rip your arms off, or just dislocate your arms and actually survive it?

    What if you caught it between your chest, and wrapped your arms around it, parallel to the bar. I assume the force would still be fatal, and cause more damage since all the force will be undistributed. Would it be like grabbing a sword or something and just rip right through you or would you actually survive it.

    If neither of these ways are possible, is there a way to survive without the pole being flexible?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 11, 2012 #2


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    The only falls people survive at terminal velocity are into something that gives quite a bit. Dense bushes, deep snow, that sort of thing. Anything that stops any part of your body more or less instantly is sure to be fatal.
  4. Aug 11, 2012 #3


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    Actually, it does if you think about it. The force of an adult male weighing, say 180lbs falling 3 stories and grabbing a solid railing is certainly enough to dislocate his shoulder even if he could manage to hang on, which I think is likely impossible since hands aren't that strong.

    The damage that the heroes sustain, and more or less casually walk away from, in movies is usually completely ridiculous.
  5. Aug 11, 2012 #4
    Wow, haha. Never thought about this topic before but is certainly very intriguing.

    One of my assignments in high school physics class was to watch a movie and note all of the "physics is broken" moments. Haha.
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