Phenomena

Shooting a Bullet Through a Water Balloon

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This high-speed video of a bullet fired into a water balloon shows how dramatically drag forces can affect an object. In general, drag is proportional to fluid density times an object’s velocity squared. This means that changes in velocity cause even larger changes in drag force. In this case, though, it’s not the bullet’s velocity that is its undoing. When the bullet penetrates the balloon, it transitions from moving through air to moving through water, which is 1000 times more dense. In an instant, the bullet’s drag increases by three orders of magnitude. The response is immediate: the bullet slows down so quickly that it lacks the energy to pierce the far side of the balloon. This is not the only neat fluid dynamics in the video, though. When the bullet enters the balloon, it drags air in its wake, creating an air-filled cavity in the balloon. The cavity seals near the entry point and quickly breaks up into smaller bubbles. Meanwhile, a unstable jet of water streams out of the balloon through the bullet hole, driven by hydrodynamic pressure and the constriction of the balloon. (Video credit: Keyence)

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