The Eiffel Tower and the 10-Ton Bullet

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research, now in all-pdf form. Get a subscription now for only $25 a year!

by John F. Ptak
Ptak Science Books

Eiffel Jumble
This image [above] of the building of the foundation of the Eiffel Tower, which appeared in the Scientific American in 1888, appears both orderly and chaotic. There’s a fine, confusing quality to the jumble, with 90-degree angles everywhere.

The perspective, odd in places, gives the print a nearly Escher-like aura of impossibility. The observer’s point of view seems to vary.

The Eiffel Tower and A Nail

This is the first nail-and-Eiffel-Tower image I’ve ever seen.

It comes from the Scientific American Reference Book. A Manual for the Office, Household and Shop, by Albert A. Hopkins, published in 1903, gloriously depicting annual American finished-nail production in terms of Eiffel Towers. There were evidently 10 million 100-pound kegs of these nails made in 1902; if they had been made into one big nail, it would be like the one we see here- 52' in diameter and 1000 feet tall.

The Eiffel Tower and the Giant Bullet

In 1891, M. Carron of Grenoble envisioned the Eiffel Tower as a perfect place from which to drop a 40-foot–tall, 20,000-pound bullet filled with 20 people in leather armchairs into a 200-foot deep champagne-glass pool.

This is a singular insight. M. Carron’s bullet capsule would be released from the top of the interior of the Tower, to fall about 1000 feet into an excavated pool 150 feet across and 200 feet deep. The water would act as a “shock absorber.” Thus, we are told, “the shock felt by the occupants on landing will be in no way unpleasant.”

For the 20 franc admission fee, a person would get to go twice as fast as any human had ever traveled before (65 miles per hour was about the speed of the fastest train). All this was made known to readers of the Gazetteer & Atlas of Ideas.


This article is republished with permission from the January-February 2010 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift! Visit their website for more research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK.

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