iPad SURVIVES FALL FROM SPACE
Fondleslab fails to fracture
Rugged case manufacturer G-Form sought to prove its hardware protection credentials this week, launching an iPad into space before letting it plummet to Earth. Needless to say, the fondleslab survived the fall - we probably wouldn't write the story otherwise.
The company wrapped an iPad in its Extreme Edge case and, using a weather balloon which bursts at altitude, sent it soaring toward the stratosphere.
The slate made it above 100,000 feet before it started to rapidly descend, eventually crash-landing on a rocky hill in the Nevada countryside.
“As far as we know, this is the first iPad ever in space,” said G-Form’s VP of innovations, Thom Cafaro. “And definitely it’s the first iPad that’s ever free-fallen from space and survived to play more movies."
Yep, the iPad still worked, so while this is an obvious attempt to grab promotion on the company's behalf, we probably shouldn't question the pedigree of its cases too much, which will be on show at CES 2012 next week. Here's the video of the iPad's galactic journey:
Last year, a US Air Force Combat Controller accidentally dropped his iPhone out his pocket while leaning out of an airplane. It survived a fall of 1000-odd feet. Perhaps Apple hardware is just that brawny.
Our very own team at Vulture Central are experienced in the art of launching things to great heights too, after El Reg became the first to send a paper aircraft into space. That escapade was recently turned into a motion picture - well, sort of - that you can view without the need to hit up Torrent sites. Check it out. ®
Weigh has nothing to do with it all-else being equal.
In an atmosphere, wind resistance to surface area DOES make a difference, which is why the hammer-and-feather thing was demonstrated on the moon - try it in your living room or off your balcony and you won't get the same result. That is what 'terminal velocity' is all about. If you want the cannonball thing to work down here, you need to pair it up with a same-size sphere of balsa wood (or polystyrine these days is even better).
Interesting asside: a mouse can fall (relatively) safely from any height as its terminal velocity is well below the point at which is would suffer major damage from hitting the ground.
So what is the terminal velocity of the iPad in one of these cases? Probably fairly low as the case is presumably light and we all know the iPad is too. So dropping it from only 50 feet up might get it striking the Earth at the same speed anyway. Might even save wrecking a perfectly serviceable balloon as well. Sighs...
Space at 100k feet?!
Uhh... I don't think so. A generally accepted standard is the Karman Line, which is a rough approximation of the point below which "significant lateral thrust would be keep a craft flying level" (from 'Where Does Space Begin?' on Slate). That altitude is 100 kilometers. If Google is to be believed, that works out to 328,083.99 feet.
NASA determines whether you're an astronaut (which it seems would apply to iPads as well as badasses) by using the 100km figure above. The USAF, generously, considers you an astronaut if you've gone up a mere 80km - but that's still far above 100,000 feet.
Not only that, the SR71 Blackbird had a *service ceiling* (normal operating range) of 85,000 feet.
And a final thought - a balloon can only support an object if it can 'float' on the air around it. A balloon, by definition, can't leave the atmosphere any more than a rubber duck can float to the top of the tub water and keep on going until it's hovering. Ye cannae change tha laws'a'physics.
So we have problems:
A: At absolute best, the balloon could 'float on the surface of space'. If you want to get really pedantic, that disqualifies any claims immediately - the iPad is hanging below the balloon, ergo it can't be in space. But that's not necessary...
A: By definition you can't stick a balloon in space, as it will pop. Their balloon did not pop. It did not go into space.
B: The atmosphere's border is gradual, not immediate, like the tub water. Something buoyant will float up to a certain point and stay there; it's 'surface' is dependent on its lift. Have any mass at all? You won't get to the top; at some point your lift (unless you're a rocket) is going to go away, and that point will not be space.
C: Remember, even helium has some mass. If you get to the point where the atmosphere is less dense than helium, as it must, the whole kit and kaboodle might as well be a brick. You want to get to space? Helium may be lighter than air, but I'm fairly sure it isn't lighter than nothing.
So, there's no way in hell it's going to come even close to any commonly accepted definition of 'space'. And it didn't - far less than half by the most generous definition, and less than a third by the most common.
I'm not surprised about the case manufacturer - playing fast and loose with the facts is a treasured tradition of marketing - but I'm a bit surprised that El Reg just gave them a free pass. If someone from the US issued a press release saying that they had driven an electric car "coast-to-coast on one charge, all the way to Chicago!", you'd be all over it like a cheap suit. So I'm disappointed that you didn't jump on -this-.