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Men in Black’s Noisy Cricket is CRAZY

Would you break this dang thing, or would it break you? Let's get technical. (neuralyzer whirs and fires) Would you break this dang thing, or would get break you? Let's get technical. What? (upbeat techno music) Out of all the fun sci-fi weapons in the Men in Black-iverse, the Noisy Cricket mightbe the most famous. Absurdly small and absurdlypowerful for its size, this tiny gun is known forits crazy strong recoil. Now we know almost nothingelse about this weapon, aside from its recoil, but I think that if we canput some numbers to its oomph, we can learn a lot more about it than some dudes in suits would tell us because no matter where theMen in Black got this weapon, physics works the sameeverywhere in the universe.

First, I can't see anything. First, what is recoil? Well recoil is the term that we use for a weapon's backwards momentum, its mass multiplied by its velocity and that backwardsmomentum is a consequence of the conservation of momentum, a principle that states that in a closed system withno energy going in or out, no matter if objects collide or not, the total momentum, before and after whateverhappens, is the same. Say for example, you were an MIB agent watchinga bug piloted UFO smash into the Old World's Fair Unisphere.

Your classic textbook example. If the UFO hits this sphere and then sticks to it and they both travel on together, you'd expect that thiswhole mass would be moving at a slower velocity than the UFO was initially traveling at because the combinedmass is so much larger and indeed when we do calculations for different objects like this, this is exactly what we find. The arrows of momentum before and after are exactly the same. That's conservation. The conservation of momentumis at work everywhere. Say you had some kind of a rocket car with off-limit buttons. Another classic example. The backwards momentum, or recoil, this rocket car will get will be the mass of therocket exhaust multiplied by the velocity of that rocket exhaust. Now exhaust as gas is not very heavy, and so that's why rocketshave to throw it back out of something at ridiculous speeds with basically controlled explosions. Whatever the Noisy Cricket is firing, it's not going to be that heavy either because you can hold thewhole gun in your hand. And so this simple equationcan give us an idea of exactly how fast it hasto fire a projectile in order to move someone like Will Smith. And spoiler alert, it's gonna be (rocket fires) way faster than that thing. Wow.

Don't touch the button. Don't touch the button. To calculate the ridiculousnessthat is the Noisy Cricket, we need to know a few variables first. Our equation is very simple, but we still need to know the mass of Agent Jay in thefirst Men in Black film, we need to know the velocitythat he is thrown backwards at, and we need to estimate the mass of whatever the Noisy Cricket is firing. If we do that, we can solve for the velocity of that projectile and hopefully that valuewill let us determine what the Noisy Cricket would actually do and what it would do, to you. Oh I did break it. (neuralyzer whirs and fires) Men in Black was right.  I felt like I said that. Did I say that already?

If a weapon has a lot of recoil because of the conservation of momentum, that means that it's either firing something relatively lightat an enormous velocity, like rockets do with fuel particles, or it is firing something much heavier at a relatively slower speed. Now you could get the same recoil, or momentum change by, and follow me here on this one, throwing a blue whale straight down at Mach 1.7 every two seconds. Whale. Whale. Whale. Whale. Ah. Beautiful. I'm bringing up blue whales and exhaust and rocket cars because I hope by now, you have a good idea that for a tiny gun to throw a grown man across a room, it simply must be firing something at an unheard of velocity. So let's get technical.

Looking to the Men in Black films and the prop replicas of the Noisy Cricket that fans have built over the years, the diameter of this barrel cannot be more than a few millimeters wide. Maybe three to four. So tiny. To fit inside the barrel then, whatever the Noisy Cricket is firing has to be less than this diameter, maybe one to two millimeters. Small. And if the projectileis made out of some kind of earthly material, maybe a spherical shape, how about steel? Then the total mass ejected from the gun would be just four milligrams. Pew. Pew. Finally Will Smith is 82 kilograms and I think now you can see that for just four milligrams, to launch something that is over 20 million times more massive, the velocity on display here must be ridiculous. But just how ridiculous it has to be will depend very much on the amount of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air time (Kyle laughs) that Will gets. (neuralyzer whirs and fires)Nope! Nope, you can't make me forget it. I'll never forget it!

To complete our equation, we need Will Smith's recoilvelocity and for that, we're gonna do what we always do in movie velocity situations. We are gonna need the frames of the movie and the frames per second of that movie to get some time value, and then we're gonna needto look into the movie to get some known distance of something to get a distance value and from that, distanceover time, velocity. This clip from Men in Black one is playing at 30 frames per second and for Will Smith's final toss from the Noisy Cricket in this scene, I counted a total of 23 frames. To me, it looks like he istraveling and thrown backwards about half of a full car length. The average in America,that we can look up and if we have these two values, then we can get an average velocity to plug into our conservationof momentum equation.

I'm leaving all thesevariables in our equation here because you can mess around with how far you think Will Smith is actually traveling in that scene, what the projectile is made out of, and therefore, its actual mass, how many frames you count him moving for, but the slowest that Icalculate the projectile for the Noisy Cricket traveling is at over seven thousandkilometers per second. The slowest. And at its fastest, it could be traveling at relativistic speeds. I'm talking like 60 thousandkilometers per second, a hundred million miles per hour, 20% the speed of light. Not only is this faster thananything ever fired on Earth, this is faster than our galaxy moves. What?! And what it would do to you. I'm an alien. Whoa! You were not supposed to see that. Speeds of thousands ofkilometers per second and above fall into the regime of hypervelocity.

And we've actually testedwhat hypervelocity impacts would do to stuff tohelp protect the people who might actually meet aliens one day. By definition, anythingthat is orbiting the Earth is going pretty dang fastin order to stay in orbit and that also applies topieces of space debris and space junk like little flecks of paint or little pieces of metal. And those would be incredibly dangerous at orbital speeds if say, you were an astronaut up there. That is why NASA has actually built giant gas powered gunsto fire stuff at objects to see what they will do at hypervelocity. Here is an image of oneof those test impacts, firing a little piece of something at 17 thousand miles per hour. That looks pretty dangerous. Here is video footage of a test of a little metal spherehitting sand at Mach 100. Still looks really dangerous. If the Noisy Cricket is firing anything at thousands of times more than these test velocities, it's not totally implausible to assume that when it did fire something.

Wow, that hurt. How much would it hurt though? If we forget about thevelocity for a second and just look at thetotal momentum imparted to Will Smith when he isthrown by the Noisy Cricket, we get a value that doesn'treally mean very much unless you compare it to something else, so let's compare it to something else. This is about themomentum that a linebacker in the NFL running at full speed has. And we know that NFLplayers, when they hit you, can throw you a decent distanceand absolutely rock you. So now imagine all thismomentum concentrated in just your wrists,shoulders, and elbows. If you walk away from firing this thing with just a broken wrist, I think you would be (Noisy Cricket fires) lucky. Oh! I'll never forget this pain. (neuralyzer whirs and fires) But despite therelativistic firing speeds, despite the momentum, despite the broken bonesit would probably give you, I still don't think the Noisy Cricket would ever actually throw you backwards.

Like good physicists, when we started asking this question, we more or less assumed that Will Smith is a perfect Will Smith sphere and any force acting on that sphere would act equally and simultaneously, but of course, we know that humans are not perfect spheres tobe launched by something. What Hollywood has either ignored or forgotten for years, is that humans are whatwe call squishy bendy and even immense recoil willquickly dissipate itself in the bending of our bodies, our arms, and our limbs and a lot of it will just transfer into the ground. In fact, I'd wager there maynot be any movie situations where someone is firing an accurate weapon where they'd either knock (glass breaking) someone through a plate glass window or be thrown backwards themselves. The Noisy Cricket is extremely impressive and probably very dangerous but its depiction of recoilis a little Men in Wack. (neuralyzer whirs and fires)No! (Kyle laughs)Nope. I'm gonna remember these puns forever! Well because of itsdepiction in the movies, it just has to be firingprojectiles faster than any bullet on Earth, faster than any human made object, and faster than some galaxies move.

The Noisy Cricket might not throw you through the air in real life, but it would definitely break stuff and probably break you. Because science. (Kyle groans in pain) (upbeat techno music) There is one small problem with whatever the Noisy Crickeyis firing and it's that, if you're firing something that fast, it's gonna immediatelyvaporize itself in the air. Even if it was a metalsphere, a steel sphere, for example, firing at 100million miles per hour, it would immediately vaporize itself and it would be more just like relativistic steel ironions flying through the air and would that do thesame amount of damage? How far would that plasmaof steel actually go? Probably not as far, probablynot do the same kinda damage but that's where we can kindamake the hand wavy part.

Thank you so much for watching, Sammy. If you want more of me, or you want to suggestideas for future episodes, you can follow me and Because Science at these social media handles here and don't forget our first expansion show, Because Space, expansion, it's like the expansion of the, it has a number of episodes now live and you're gonna wannacheck them with Doctor Moo, who is absolutely lovelyand very, very smart, and she's just great. And if you like it too, letus know in the comments. Thanks. 

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