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The Ultimate Physics Question Mountain Dew

  1. Jul 30, 2003 #1
    The Ultimate Physics Question!! Mountain Dew!!

    Ok. I need you all's help.

    If you were to stack empty soda cans on top of each other, one by one, until you have about a trillion cans on top of each other, perfectly balanced, would the weight of the cans cause the bottom can to be crushed?

    http://www.bevnet.com/images/reviews/mountaindewlivewire/livewire-logo.jpg [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 30, 2003 #2
  4. Jul 30, 2003 #3
    More responses
  5. Jul 30, 2003 #4
    i think yes aswell

    think about it like this, how much do a trillion cans weigh and picture puttting that amount of weight on top of 1 individual can even perfectly balanced i doubt that one can could hold all that weight.

  6. Jul 30, 2003 #5
    ok yes. It's pretty obvious- we're talking about aluminum vs the wait of a trillion cans- nuff said
  7. Jul 30, 2003 #6

    An average empty soda can weighs approximately 17 grams so the combined weight of a trillion cans would be 17 trillion grams.

    Yes, if a person can press an empty can against their head and crush it, then I think that 17,000,000,000,000 grams would.
  8. Jul 30, 2003 #7


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    Actually, the wieght of all trillion would not rest on the bottom can. Long before the trillienth can, the stack would reach above 22,350 miles (the altitude of geosynchronous orbit) and all cans above that altitude would pull away from the ground, rather than pushing down on it. However, long berfore this, the bottom can would be crushed. The first thousand or so should do the trick.


    This is assuming, of course, that the stack was on the equator. At the poles, one could stack any arbitrary number of cans and they would still weigh down on the bottom one.
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2003
  9. Jul 30, 2003 #8
    Below 22,350 miles would be about 354,024,000 4" long cans at 17 g each that's about 6,018,408,000 grams.

    Yup, I still think it's going to crush it.
  10. Jul 30, 2003 #9
    I Disagree.

    To all those who said yes, wouldn't you agree that the weight would become evenly distributed amongst the cans, therefore relieving the bottom can of all the pressure?
  11. Jul 30, 2003 #10


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    Without getting into other complications (for example the higher up the stack you went the less the cans would weigh), all the weight of the cans would be acting through the bottom can meaning it would be well and truly crushed.
  12. Jul 30, 2003 #11


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    If I drop a brick on your head, does it not hurt?

    - Warren
  13. Jul 30, 2003 #12


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    Do the following experiment. Take a scale (one sensitive enough to measure the weight of one can). Place an empty can on it and record the weight. Now stack another can on top of the first and record the weight again. keep adding cans and reading the scale.

    Note that the reading on the scale goes up in porportion to the number of cans in the stack. Thus the pressure on the scale increases as more cans are added to the stack. The scale has to support the weight of all the cans in the stack.

    If you were to replace the scale with a can, it too must support the weight of all the cans above it.

    Each can transfers all the weight of the cans above it, plus its own weight, to the can below it.
  14. Jul 30, 2003 #13
    welp you got me there!

    I know I am defeated, but my brother says: how do you explain the SEARS Tower?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 30, 2003
  15. Jul 30, 2003 #14
    The Sears Tower, WTC, Empire State buildings you ask?

    The load bearing colums which I believe are re-inforced steel can support the weight of material above it. Granted the lower basements of these buildings have tremendous pressure on the load bearing members, but they hold everything up. There was a show on discovery channel about demolition, and they showed that the pressures of those members at the lower levels is SO Great that if you were able to chip off pieces of material they would shoot off like a bullet from a gun. Thats how much pressure is involved.

    But to answer your question, soda cans arent designed to bear so much weight.
  16. Jul 31, 2003 #15
    Even though soda cans are designed to withstand a fair amount of pressure for warehouse stacking etc., the empty can you described is not designed to take the weight of a trillion empty cans on top of it. That doesn't mean that a can cannot be designed that could do that.
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