Umbrella skydiving and some thoughts

Leia esta digressão em português.

I believe every one, at least once in their life time, thought about what it’d be like to jump from a high building using an umbrella as a parachute. I certainly did think about it and more than once. I remember someone told me that when he was a kid, he even took one of his toys and attached a self-made parachute out of some plastic bag and threw from the window. Unfortunately the toy was lost, taken away by the wind, but slowing down the free fall is one of those ideas that have crossed everyone’s mind at some point of our lives, but slowly fades away as other thoughts and worries starts building up as we grow older.


Luckily not everyone forgets their dreams and ideas they had when they were young and some of those who don’t forget, get a chance to test them. Some ideas are easy to test, some are not. This umbrella experiment is not really easy to try, I believe. You’d likely prefer to jump from an airplane with proper parachuting equipments so you’d have to be a professional parachutist. Also, I don’t know about the legal bureaucracy needed. I believe most organs related to air space control and parachuting controls wouldn’t allow people to freely throw cars and other objects while they’re practicing skydiving. You better be sure you’re conscious of the risks, because it can be quite dangerous and be sure to be doing it on a deserted place because you don’t want to struck people to death with some random object falling from the sky.

Anyway, some ideas don’t even need testing to know the results. Jumping to a free fall with only an umbrella is one of them. The result is obvious. But that doesn’t make the experience less interesting or less attractive. At least that’s what I think and it seems like I’m not the only one who thought that way. Yes, there’s another guy named Erik Roner thought it’d be cool to make the experiment and he even decided to record it. Maybe some scientists can use it for collecting data? Don’t know. But the experiment is recorded and properly shared online.

And the result was as expected. The umbrella couldn’t resist the air flow and broke down. Fun, but expected so no, you won’t be able to copy Mari Poppins here. If you want to do anything related to Mari Poppins, you’re better off sticking to the dancing and the singing, not with flying around with an umbrella.

The reasons why it turned out the way it did are the quality of the umbrella structure and the cloth used for umbrellas. Quite simple problems to be solved. Make a stronger and yet light skeleton structure (maybe titanium?) and use reinforced cloth. To get rid of the possibility of a structure break, you may even decide to get rid of it and find another way to attach the cloth to the pole, which should be made so it provides maximum grip. We don’t want the umbrella slipping out of your hands while falling!

But then, again we might prefer to get rid of possible problems of poles slipping out of your hands by simply getting rid of the pole and finding a way to attach the cloth directly to your body. Oh, wait. That’s pretty close to an actual parachute….

Well, maybe that’s how people got inspired to develop a parachute? It seems like the Chinese people thought of such relation quite a long time ago.

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