In a strange occurrence, an iPhone fell an astounding 16,000 feet from an Alaska Airlines airplane and not only resisted gravity, but it also came out unharmed. The physics of this remarkable occurrence has been clarified by Duncan Watts, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oslo’s Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics.
Although many iPhone owners can identify with the fear of their gadget shattering from as little as a 10-foot drop, the Alaska Airlines incident offers an alternative viewpoint. According to Watts, a phone’s velocity and the angle at which it falls are the main determinants of whether it survives a fall.
A phone falling from waist height usually hits the ground at a speed of about 10 mph. But air resistance was a major factor in the instance of the flying iPhone. The phone’s descent was considerably reduced to about 50 mph by the drag it encountered, and landing in a bush served as an additional cushion to shield it from harm.
Watts clarifies that the phone likely tumbled through the air, resulting in a speed closer to 50 mph, emphasizing the importance of air resistance in preventing catastrophic damage. If the iPhone had fallen with its screen facing the ground, it would have experienced more drag, possibly reducing its speed even further.
The fortunate landing in a bush on damp ground provided an inch of cushion, akin to the impact of landing on a soft chair, saving the iPhone from severe damage. Washington resident Sean Bates stumbled upon the fully intact and undamaged iPhone during a walk, revealing the remarkable resilience of the device.
The incident occurred when a door plug tore off an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft, leading to the FAA grounding all such planes globally. Bates discovered the phone, still in Airplane Mode, displaying a baggage claim email with the flight number, crucial information now in the hands of the National Transportation Safety Board.
This extraordinary tale of an iPhone surviving a 16,000-foot fall not only showcases the impact of air resistance but also underscores the unpredictable nature of events, leaving us in awe of both technology and the laws of physics.