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The Physics of the Ghostbusters Twinkie


(Video Link)

In Ghostbusters, Dr. Egon Spengler tries to explain the level of paranormal danger that New York City faces. He uses a Twinkie as an anology:

Let's say this Twinkie represents the normal amount of psychokinetic energy in the New York area. According to this morning's sample, it would be a Twinkie 35 feet long, weighing approximately 600 pounds.

What does that mean, scientifically? J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats writes in great detail about the physical characteristics of a Twinkie this size and weight. The Spengler Twinkie creates serious problems because a Twinkie scaled up to that size would weigh much more than 600 pounds and collapse under its own weight:

A Twinkie 35 feet long would actually weigh 1.25 million times more than a standard Twinkie, or approximately 53 tons. And it gets worse. As any snack-cake historian could tell you, modern Twinkies are different from 1984 Ghostbusters-era Twinkies. Twinkies were discontinued briefly a couple of years back and reemerged from Hostess's bankruptcy as shorter, less dense versions of their previous form. While modern Twinkies are 9.9 centimeters long and weigh 38.5 grams, 1984 Twinkies were 10.2 centimeters long and weighed 42.5 grams. Redoing the calculations with those measurements gives you a Twinkie that weighs 54 tons.

But note that Spengler said that 600 pounds is the weight not the mass of the Twinkie. López-Alt calculates that it would be possible to make a Twinkie fitting Spengler's specifications--provided that it was placed in low gravity:

In order for that Twinkie to weigh 600 pounds, you'd have to blast it off on a rocket (shoring it up so it can withstand those G-forces, of course), fly it past the stratosphere, watch those meteoroids ignite into burning meteors as it whizzes through the mesosphere, wave at the astronauts aboard the International Space Station at 400 kilometers, photobomb the Hubble Space Telescope at 600 kilometers, disrupt armies and Uber drivers all over the world as you smash through GPS satellites at 20,000 kilometers, then leave them all in the dust and set the cruise control as you coast the rest of the way, pulling off that interplanetary superhighway when you're almost a quarter of the way to the moon.

-via Stella Park


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