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6-Year-Old Boy in Balloon over Colorado - RF Cafe Forums

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Kirt Blattenberger
 Post subject: 6-Year-Old Boy in Balloon over Colorado
Posted: Thu Oct 15, 2009 5:14 pm 
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Joined: Sun Aug 03, 2003 2:02 pm
Posts: 878
Location: Erie, PA

I've been watching the coverage of a 6-year-old boy who supposedly climbed inside his father's hobby weather balloon and floated away. News helicopters followed its progress over the eastern plains of Colorado as it was whipped back and forth over the plains as about 3,000 feet above ground level (AGL). The whole time I was asking, "Why hasn't somebody done the calculation about whether such a craft was capable of lifting itself and a 6-year-old boy?"

The reporters said the saucer-shaped, mylar balloon was about 20 feet in diameter, and it looked to be maybe 3 feet high at the center.

The volume for a cylinder 20 feet in diameter (10 foot radius)* and 3 feet high is about 942 ft^3. That converts to about 26.7 kiloliters. Helium has a lifting force of roughly 1 gram per liter at sea level and 60 degrees, so that means 26.7 kg, or about 58.8 pounds.

A typical 6-year-old boy weighs about 45 pounds per a government website I consulted. The picture of the boy shows he was no fatty, so assume 45 pounds.

The balloon itself had its own weight plus the weight of a small equipment gondola underneath, so assume maybe 3 pounds. That leaves around 55 pounds to lift. Since the balloon had less volume than a cylinder, and it was partially collapsed, it might have had 70% of the cylinder's volume at most, so that leaves around 38 pounds of lifting force.

It seems to me that there is no way that balloon could have lifted the boy, so the entire event was overplayed. Oh well, it made good news. Too bad that the news people don't have enough science savvy to even do a sanity check.

Maybe I'm wrong. What do you think?


* Typo correction 10/16/2009, in response to Voltamancer's comment. Yes, I used 10 feet as the radius in my volume calculation.

- Kirt Blattenberger :smt024
RF Cafe Progenitor & Webmaster

Ed Milan
 Post subject: Re: 6-Year-Old Boy in Balloon over Colorado
Posted: Thu Oct 15, 2009 11:00 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 04, 2003 10:13 am
Posts: 18
Good work Kirt! I was thinking along the same lines that the balloon just didn't look like it was big enough to lift even a small boy. The shape of the balloon did not look stressed like there was a heavy weight inthe gondola area. I think the people were looking for publicity. Did you see where the parents had taken part in a reality TV show for spouse swapping? Not exactly reputable folks.

 Post subject: Re: 6-Year-Old Boy in Balloon over Colorado
Posted: Fri Oct 16, 2009 12:52 pm 

Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2009 12:46 pm
Posts: 1
Good thinking! You may want to correct the typo, where the first reference is to a 20 foot diameter, then a 10-foot diameter.
Don't worry, the math is right for the 10-foot radius

 Post subject: Re: 6-Year-Old Boy in Balloon over Colorado
Posted: Fri Oct 16, 2009 3:23 pm 

Joined: Wed Apr 05, 2006 7:50 am
Posts: 23
Yeah and your calculation for bouyancy is at sea level. That part of Colorado is at about 5,000' ASL and the balloon was never more than around 8,000' ASL. There's no way in Hades that it could have had a boy in it... maybe the family pooch but that's about it.

You're right about how pathetically lacking most people are of science. But you'd think the news agencies with all their nightly "experts" on the payroll would have done the work you did to determine whether it was even possible for the boy to be aboard.

 Post subject: Re: 6-Year-Old Boy in Balloon over Colorado
Posted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 12:21 pm 
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Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2006 12:07 pm
Posts: 365
Location: London UK
And the conclusion we draw is: if the media story has legs, it doesn't need lift, or even truth.
By coincidence over the weekend on the BBC steam-driven radio (or should we call it wireless these days?) was a real true-life run-away drama: the story of the Canadian train driver on the footplate of a runaway loco with no brakes in March 87 or 89: driven down-hill by 13 fully loaded ore trucks, through Canada at 75 mph. Wow.

At bottom, life is all about
Sucking in and blowing out.

 Post subject: Re: 6-Year-Old Boy in Balloon over Colorado
Posted: Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:25 am 

Joined: Thu Oct 22, 2009 3:07 am
Posts: 1
Location: Absecon, New Jersey, USA
The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.

:smt020 :D

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Kirt Blattenberger
 Post subject: Update: 6-Year-Old Boy in Balloon over Colorado
Posted: Sun Nov 15, 2009 12:19 am 
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Joined: Sun Aug 03, 2003 2:02 pm
Posts: 878
Location: Erie, PA

Well, the dirtbag parents have confessed to scripting the entire event to pitch a possible reality TV show.


The sad thing is that they will probably end up getting rich off the whole charade. :smt076

- Kirt Blattenberger :smt024
RF Cafe Progenitor & Webmaster

Posted  11/12/2012
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