A wry view of life for the world-weary

Motivated By Curiosity And A Desire For The Truth – Part Three


During my travels around our green and pleasant land I like to seek out pubs which sell unusual beers. Some of the establishments I visit can be a little on the insalubrious side but fortunately, to date, I have not experienced any physical violence.

Of course imbibing alcohol to excess can result in a greater propensity for arguments and occasionally these exchanges of opinion can result in violent confrontations. And with beer bottles and glasses in attendance there are ready weapons to hand. This begs the question as to whether a full or empty beer bottle is more likely to crack your skull.

Fortunately, according to a paper published in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, some Swiss researchers have devoted a part of their lives to establishing the answer. The scientists, led by the inestimable Dr Bolliger, selected a half-litre bottle of Feldschosschen to conduct their experiments with.

They used 10 bottles – four full and six empty – which they laid on their side and dropped a 1 kg steel ball on to them from varying heights of between 2 and 4 metres. They discovered that full beer bottles tolerated energies of up to 25J but shattered at 30J or above whereas an empty bottle needed energies of up to 40J before they shattered.

So far so good. Experiments conducted to demonstrate the tolerance of human skulls to blows showed that they shattered, depending upon the area struck, by blows with energy values of between 14.1J and 68.J. In other words, if your napper is struck by a beer bottle which shatters it makes no difference whether it is full or empty at the time of impact. Either will have enough force to potentially fracture your skull. A beer glass though shatters at 1.7J and is, therefore, unlikely to break your skull. Worth knowing, I think.

For those of you considering taking up sword-swallowing here is some words of warning from the December 2006 edition of the British Medical Journal which details some penetrating research conducted by Brian Witcombe and Dan Meyer into the side effects of the practice.

Drawing upon the experiences of 46 sword swallowers the researchers found that major complications generally occur in three circumstances – where the swallower is distracted or where they swallow multiple or unusually shaped swords or where there is a pre-existing injury. Sore throats are a common complaint for those who are learning the art or who are working too much. Other problems can include, would you credit it, major gastrointestinal bleeding and occasional chest pains. Still, on the bright side, recovery rates are faster than for ordinary Joes suffering from internal perforations.

The world would be a poorer place without scientists pushing back the frontiers of human knowledge, don’t you think?!

If you enjoyed this why not check out Fifty Curious Questions by Martin Fone. Available now. Just follow any of the links


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