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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 July 2006, 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK
Physics can damage your health
Bill Turnbull has a nosebleed; Sian iWilliams s in shock from the loud bangs - and Richard Hammond looks on
Physics was never so lively at school
Anyone who snoozed through physics lessons at school could scarcely have imagined the chaos that might ensue when BBC Breakfast tackled the subject this morning.

It began so promisingly, when Top Gear's Richard Hammond said he'd be delighted to appear on the show.

But, perhaps Bill Turnbull and Sian Williams should have been warned when the producers laid on a supply of children's balloons, metal skewers and plastic bottles.

The challenge was: insert the skewer into the balloon, without it bursting. And, blow up another balloon inside the plastic bottle.
Bill Turnbull blowing up a balloon in a bottle
It's possible to inflate the balloon inside the bottle

The correct solution to both problems would demonstrate the practical application of the principles of physics.

All well and good.

But, three burst balloons later, Sian began to worry that a midwife might be needed rather sooner than expected.

Then, Bill tackled the balloon in the bottle challenge with such gusto that he gave himself a nose-bleed, just before the end of the programme.

Richard Hammond, a man who claims to be able to walk on custard (yes, really) explained that the skewer in the balloon trick will work - with a lot of patience and a little Vaseline.

The trick is to cover the end of the skewer with Vaseline, then, very gently twist it into the top of the balloon, where the molecular structure is densest.

Richard Hammond attempts to insert a skewer into a balloon
You'll need Vaseline and patience for this trick
If done with enough care, you can actually get the skewer into the balloon, without causing a tear.

The balloon in the bottle trick requires a hole at the end of the bottle, to let some of the surrounding air out as you inflate the balloon.

Perhaps it was the build of pressure which led to Bill's nosebleed. A physicist would undoubtedly know.

  • Richard Hammond's book on physics is called Can You Feel the Force? It's published by Dorling Kindersley. ISBN: 1 4053 1543 1



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