Sunday, April 10, 2011

The hair helmet effect of fuzzy hair - the endurance eggsperiment

A fuzzy and a straightie, both weighing 60 kgs, fall from the second floor of an art hotel at the same time onto their heads – who will be most injured?

I’m like a jelly fish in the midday sun, I’m that transparent. You can see where this is going: Is fuzzy hair a natural helmet? Are we more protected from head injuries by the absorbent cushioning of springy hair? Is this why we’ve survived for millions of years despite the oppression?

I posed my initial question to a properly qualified bona fide nuclear physicist.

While perplexed, he did answer: “the fuzzy hair would increase the air resistance of the person, so reduce their acceleration and terminal velocity, thereby reducing the speed of impact.” Aha!

While I was waiting for the official response, I also threw the question open to the general rabble and I received this answer from a suitably unqualified lawyer (unqualified in the realm of physics not lawyering). I think he makes some very valid points that bear repeating.

I would suggest that the frizzy person would have some - marginal - protection.  Firstly the afro hair would likely provide more wind resistance - slowing the fall. 

“Secondly - curly hair is basically like a small spring - albeit of far weaker than metal material.  The hair of the straight haired person would likely not be pointing directly against the concrete (unless you dive head first) - but first let's assume you dive flat - the length of hair would not oppose the concrete - only the width would.  With a curly-haired person, no matter which angle their head hit the ground it would have hair directly at its length opposing the concrete and providing spring like resistance.”

Clearly, my friend has missed his calling, instead of driving a desk filthy with acronyms, he should be out in the Californian desert packing crash test dummies with semtex alongside the beret-wearing dude from Myth Busters.

Now, not satisfied with these theoretical musings, I decided to run my own experiment. Meet our two boiled eggs. One with realistic fuzzy hair simulator via the medium of an orange kitchen mop, and the other with a pseudo indie-pop cut – neatly drawn on to replicate the closeness of straight hair to the actual skull.

Note this experiment was performed under rigorous laboratory conditions (including the compulsory wooden floorboard base) and meets Australian scientific ethical standards. Only two egg-people were hurt during this eggs-periment.

Both eggs were dropped from the same height at the same time.

The damage speaks for itself. The straightie egg broke its chin and possibly its jaw, while the fuzzy egg looks good enough to, well, eat.

Conversely, we can therefore assume that curly hair provides protection from falling objects as well. Think birds and meteorites – although not hail and teenage boys urinating from skyscraper balconies as the liquid element flattens the helmetty protection.  

So what is the plain English lesson from all this scientific research and high-tech wizardry?

If you’ve got curly hair and you fall out of a window – relax!

Also don't be surprised if the airforce starts trying to recruit you.

1 comment:

  1. I have supporting evidence of the hair helmet:

    My friend, who is 6ft 4 and has a wonderful mane of upwards-outwards curls, fell down a flight of stairs. His hair helmet saved him. He had lots of bruises and needed 10 stiches on his forehead, but no concussion or lasting damage. Medical professionals were dumbfounded as to how he didn't have concussion when he'd hit his head so hard you could see his skull. We know it was the hair.

    Laura, friend of anonymous fall-down fuzzy