Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

May 4, 2006

What goes up, must come down

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:18 am

So this woman in Houston was the maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding, and what getting ready to try to catch the thrown bouquet, when all of a sudden her arm started bleeding. She’d been hit by a different flying object — a bullet.

Shot by whom? A crazed relative? A jealous ex-boyfirend of the bride? A rival gang member?


Some idiot fired his gun in the air, probably more than a mile away. The bullet came down through the roof of the ballroom, hit Kristin Campbell in the arm … and then fell out of her arm onto the floor.

The good news is, the bullet apparently lost most of its energy when it crashed through the roof, so Miss Campbell was not seriously injured. Those of you who once took a physics class might recall the Law of Conservation of Energy, according to which a bullet fired up will have the same amount of energy coming down as it did when it left the gun (before correcting for air resistance) — so a bullet coming from above would normally hit nearly as hard as one fired at point-blank range. Fortunately, in this case the roof took most of the impact. It would have been a lot worse had it hit someone outside.

I don’t know where people get the idea that they can fire guns in the air harmlessly, especially in a populated area. Do they think the bullet just disappears up in the sky? That it goes into orbit, or outer space? More likely, they just don’t think at all. The news story doesn’t have any definitive information on the shooter, or why he or she shot into the air. If he was confronting a mugger and fired a “warning shot,” take a lesson — shoot directly at the bad guy, not into the air — for your reticience might cause injury to an innocent person somewhere else.

2 Responses to “What goes up, must come down”

  1. Victoria Says:

    Mythbusters, a show on the Discovery Channel, investigated this. It was very interesting. Bullets fired at a 90 deg. angle from the ground (nearly impossible to do intentionally) will fall to the ground sideways (long side down), and not cause too much damage. Any bullet that goes off at any angle (like in the cases you mentioned and pretty much every other firing) keep their forward momentum (pointy end first) and have killed several people, usually from over a mile away. Most of the time no one is in the way…but sometime someone is.

  2. ollie Says:

    I always do this problem in calculus class (sans air resistance) and then again in differential equations with different air resistance factors (proportional to the velocity, proportional to the square of the velocity)

    By the way, I am a bit surprised that you haven’t said anything recently about your favorite professor Ward Churchill:

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