Against my will and good judgement, I was made aware of a story circulating around the water coolers and media outlets around the country concerning the wild flight of a small boy in a helium balloon. If you are already familiar with the story, then skip down to the dotted line. If you need a moment to catch up, I’ve summarized the story below.
Apparently this boy crawled into a large (for lack of a better description) helium balloon that was roughly 5′ tall and 20′ wide (inflated) and unbeknownst to his father, sat quietly inside it while the balloon was filled and launched. It wasn’t until after it had sailed off into the wild blue yonder (there was no tether) that anyone realized the boy was inside.
Amazingly, when the balloon was finally recaptured, it was discovered that the boy was NOT inside the balloon after all, but curled up in front of the TV watching Disney and eating Cheesey Poofs. Shocked that this whole thing was a hoax, the police are now considering pressing charges; apparently for making everyone worry over nothing.
Here’s my question: HOW STUPID ARE YOU PEOPLE!? Anyone that believed this story for a second has my permission to track down and slap their high school physics teacher for not doing a good job. Let’s walk through this, ok?
First, in order for a helium balloon to generate enough lift to pick a small child up off the floor (to say nothing of achieving any kind of altitude) you would need at least an order of magnitude larger balloon than was pictured on the TV. (Don’t any of you watch MythBusters?!) Second, is this some magical child that breathes helium, or did this elementary school kid also swipe scuba gear (another 100 lbs)? Third, the thing was made of mylar and duct tape; when it started to rise are you telling me that it was so sturdy that no one could see the outline of a person pressing against the bottom?
I get that the police department is embarassed that they fell for such an amatuerish prank and need someone to pay for that (which apparently includes a couple of rescue helicopters and a cadaver search team), which is why charging them with the misdemeanor “filing a false report” is appropriate. After all, it’s not every day that you get to demonstrate your own stupendous ignorance of the laws of physics on national television. The people who should really be held responsible for this fiasco is every single television broadcast station that put this story out as news. You also have my permission to find every one of those people and slap them, too. Not only was this story NOT news, but even a basic check with ANYONE remotely interested in balloons (I’m including balloon street vendors) could have told you the story was a prank right off.
This weekend I’m going to dress my oldest daughter up in a monkey suit and have her run around the neigborhood; how many news crews do you think I can get to cover the story of my daughter being kidnapped by Sasquatch?