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Question of the day:

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 18, 2007

Question of the day:

You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and your mass is proportionally reduced so as to maintain your original density. You are then thrown into an empty glass blender. The blades will start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?

The obvious answer is “die”, but I don’t think that’s they’re after here. I have an idea…but what say you?

Reader comments

RHSep 18, 2007 at 1:17PM

Grab onto a blade and hold on for dear life!!!

RHSep 18, 2007 at 1:18PM

Grab onto a blade and hold on for dear life!!!

Joe GrossbergSep 18, 2007 at 1:18PM

Is the cover on that blender? It’s gonna get even messier if it ain’t.

Adam FieldsSep 18, 2007 at 1:21PM

Center yourself… very carefully.

ssflandersSep 18, 2007 at 1:22PM

lay flat, the blades pass right over you

JohnSep 18, 2007 at 1:22PM

Run up the blades like a spiral staircase.

Chris HuffmanSep 18, 2007 at 1:23PM

Stand or sit in the middle of the blades and hold on.

MattSep 18, 2007 at 1:25PM

Lie against the inside of one of the curved metal blades, letting the centripetal force keep you glued to that spot as the blades spin. Though I wonder how many G’s that would be…

MihirSep 18, 2007 at 1:26PM

Stay in the gap between the bottom blades and the center hub of the blades.

judson Sep 18, 2007 at 1:26PM

if you’re the height of a nickel the blades would go over your head.

AllanSep 18, 2007 at 1:27PM

Blender blades do not even come close to the sides.

Stand against the glass wall.

Adam FieldsSep 18, 2007 at 1:27PM

Detonate the EMP device you keep with you at all times and blow out the motor.

JonSep 18, 2007 at 1:28PM

Climb to the center and try to ride it out?

Adam FieldsSep 18, 2007 at 1:30PM

Wake up from this horrible dream.

Chuck ZedSep 18, 2007 at 1:33PM

Crawl up the sides. You’re the size and weight of a bug. Maybe lick your hands first for adhesion?

barlowSep 18, 2007 at 1:33PM

At that size, you’d probably be able to grab the molecules of glass like a Gecko, so holding on either on the bottom or the sides would work fine, I think. I think you’d be too dense to float out on air currents unless you removed your clothes and used them as sails.

SamuelSep 18, 2007 at 1:34PM

“Blender blades do not even come close to the sides. Stand against the glass wall.”

Seconded. If I’m as tall as a nickel, I’m only going to be a few millimeters wide. Crouch below the blades or back up against the wall.

DaveSep 18, 2007 at 1:37PM

If you try the lie down or get against the wall approach, won’t the vortex of whirling air created by the blades suck you in? Or did they debunk that on Mythbusters once?

jkottkeSep 18, 2007 at 1:38PM

Staying in the blender probably won’t work…you’d be so light that there’s no way the wind generated by the blades wouldn’t just pick you up and fling you about the blender, like a piece of tissue paper.

JaySep 18, 2007 at 1:41PM

First, I’d call my wife to make sure she Tivo-ed Americas Next Top Model and the Hills……I mean the Red Sox game.

Second, I would wave my hands wildly and scream as Rick Moranis walked by.

Adam FieldsSep 18, 2007 at 1:41PM

Since you were actually “thrown”, not “gingerly placed”, into this blender, you were probably impaled on the way down. Or at least, the very small pieces of you were impaled, since the total vacuum of the empty blender caused your body to explode. It’s arguable whether there’s a “you” left to do anything at all.

sacSep 18, 2007 at 1:45PM

This happened to me once. What I did was I kept eating more peyote until I turned into an anteater. It was pretty awesome.

BurkeSep 18, 2007 at 1:46PM

There should be a chunk of banana on its way. Burrow into it’s center.

Adam FieldsSep 18, 2007 at 1:48PM

Or you could call someone on your iPhone. The iTunes 7.4 update which you were smart enough to download prior to this included a small patch to reconfigure all of the electronics so they would still work when shrunk to the size of a nickel’s iPhone.

ArloSep 18, 2007 at 1:54PM

Assuming the lid is not in place, I second the “climb the glass walls” solution. At that size, I’d bet the glass would be quite porous.

Jason ColemanSep 18, 2007 at 1:57PM

Well, I think Kottke is right; that is, you’d probably be flung out of the blender, provided your density is the same. I estimated my density at around 0.015 lbs. per cubic inch. If I’m shrunk to approximately 1/70th of my size (5’-10” down to about 1”), then my weight reduces from 185 lbs. to less than 1/100th of an ounce.

Everyone is welcome to check that math or corroborate wit their own more accurate calculations (I estimated I’m an average of 9 in. thick and 20 in. wide, or 12,600 in.^3, which at 1/70th scale is 0.037 in.^3).

Anyway, if this is at all close, I’m pretty sure you’d be thrown free and float to (relative) safety. (p.s. - my wife thinks I’m much, much denser than what I’ve figured… ba-dum-ching!)

Adrian KhooSep 18, 2007 at 1:58PM

Lie down flat at the bottom of the blender nearer the axis of the blade. If you are shrunk down to the height of a nickel (about 2.1cm), for the a 6 ft tall, 70kg man, you will proportionately weigh 800 to 850 grams but only be less than a cm tall. There is insufficient force from the blades to lift you into danger.

kleanerSep 18, 2007 at 1:58PM

did i even survive the fall into the blender? … can i even move? …. should i just lay there … i hope they’re not making mexican salsa…

JamesSep 18, 2007 at 1:58PM

simply burrow into the crevices at the bottom of the blender.

NickSep 18, 2007 at 2:00PM

Wait, are we as tall as a nickel is wide, or as tall as a nickel is thick? Seems important to establish.

Jason ColemanSep 18, 2007 at 2:03PM

Oh, I only think of this stuff after I hit “post.” We’re pretty much water, so let’s assume I’m 62.4 lbs. per cubic foot (or 0.036 lbs. per cubic in.). That makes my volume at 185 lbs. a bit less than what I initially figured: 5,123 in.^3. Scale this down by (1/70)^3 and you have 0.015 in.^3, which then weighs 0.0086 oz., which is still less than 1/100th of an ounce.

RobSep 18, 2007 at 2:03PM

How about ‘jump’? Larger animals have thicker legs, relative to the rest of their body. Shrunk down that far, you’d have much thicker, and presumably much stronger legs than an insect. Not sure if they’d be strong enough, but I think it’d be worth a few seconds to try it.

BobSep 18, 2007 at 2:03PM

I’m pretty sure there’s a central pin holding the blades in place, and it doesn’t move even when the blades spin. I’d stand on that.

Adrian KhooSep 18, 2007 at 2:04PM

Whoops. sorry. total brain fart there. Thats what you get for surfing 3 websites at once with the music on.

Steve PilonSep 18, 2007 at 2:09PM

Well, I guess I’m not smart enough to work at Gooogle.

Jeremy PavleckSep 18, 2007 at 2:10PM

your mass is proportionally reduced

that’s the key right there. What would happen? You’d instantly die. Why? You can’t scale biological units proportionally - it’s impossible.

Ken KatoSep 18, 2007 at 2:15PM

I believe Jason may be right. Your mass is scaled down by a factor of (1/70)^3, but your strength is scaled down by a factor of (1/70)^2. So if you can jump 50cm now, you should still be able to jump about 50cm as a wee mite, and that’d be plenty enough to clear the side of the blender.

Also note that time appears to go 70 times slower for you, since the speed of light is constant but the electrons in your brain have only 1/70th the distance to travel. So to your perception, you’d have over an hour to come up with this idea.

Jake BoumaSep 18, 2007 at 2:15PM

I’m with those who would just chill on the center pin.

huphturSep 18, 2007 at 2:15PM

Your become the latest internet viral for Blentec on willitblend.com

Patrick HenslerSep 18, 2007 at 2:16PM

nothing says the blades will move very fast….. just that they will move. that’s important. you’ve assumed a lot.

nexSep 18, 2007 at 2:17PM

There’s nothing said about how long the blender will remained turned on, so it’s reasonable to assume that the blades won’t stop until you’re dead or have escaped. Whatever trick you could employ to keep you alive in there for a while, you won’t be able to keep it up forever, thus you have to escape.

There can’t really be a proper solution that takes into account all the intricacies of real-world physics (there’s no way a human’s personality and intellect could still be intact in a brain the size of a mustard seed); the purpose of the question is just to figure out how long it takes you to come up with an answer that isn’t totally stupid. So completely bogus fantasy-physics (such as having the centripetal force keep you attached to a blade or climbing the side wall — can’t work, won’t work) are out, too.

So the question to solve can be reduced to: How could an ant-sized animal that miraculously has the insight to do just the right thing escape the blender? Your best bet is to press against the side ‘wall’, just out of reach of the blades, and let the air vortex hurl you up and out. No, it won’t suck you in. The blades must suck in stuff from straight above, down the center (otherwise the blender wouldn’t work properly), and the stuff, even it it’s just air, has to go somewhere, so it’ll spiral upwards at the sides.

PatrikSep 18, 2007 at 2:20PM

First off, the only person who would not only have a workable device to shrink you, but would also feel the need to throw you into a blender, would have to be an evil genius intent on taking over the world.

And the only reason such evil genius would shrink you and throw you into a blender in the first place, is if you are on a mission to foil his plans.

And the only reason you would be out and about trying to foil his plans for world domination, is if you are on the pay roll of her majesties secret service.

And if you were working for her majesties secret service, then chances are that just hours earlier, Q gave you a special diamond ring that helps you cut through unbelievably thick glass in 59 seconds flat.

Taking all these things into consideration, now would be the right time to start using that diamond ring…

Mike BSep 18, 2007 at 2:22PM

Climb on top of the center part of the spinning mechanism. Stand on one toe.

acSep 18, 2007 at 2:22PM

From Business 2.0:

Some options:

1. Use the measurement marks to climb out

2. Try to unscrew the glass

3. Risk riding out the air current


MartinSep 18, 2007 at 2:24PM

Without reading any of the comments that preceded mine, I think the best approach would be to use your own body weight to tip the whole thing over. Run back and forth repeatedly, crash against the sides of the blender, knocking it on its side. Then run like hell.

MattSep 18, 2007 at 2:26PM

Assuming I can still drown at my new size, getting under the blades is out - probably more turbulence down there than I think anyway. I’d say get myself wet with blender juice (smoothie?) and use my light weight as an advantage to sticking to the side wall of the blender glass. Wonkle my way up a bit, and then enjoy the show. My mind!

jon dealSep 18, 2007 at 2:27PM

What do I do?

First, I wonder how the hell I ended up in one of those “Will it Blend?” viral videos.

Second, I think about what kind of sick joke it is to put someone the size of a nickel into a blender. That’s just mean, man.

Third, I assume that shrieking and screaming and crying like a little baby won’t help. Because I can guarantee you, I’m going to be doing plenty of that.

Fourth, since I’d already be on the floor of the blender, screaming and crying (see #4), I’d just try and stay low and under the blades.

Fifth, As the seconds ticked away, I’d wish again that I’d never applied to work at Google.

jkottkeSep 18, 2007 at 4:30PM

Rob has it right: jump. Tiny animals have disproportionate levels of strength because strength depends on the area of a muscle (length squared) while their mass is proportional to volume (length cubed). So when our blender-trapped fellow shrinks from 5’8” down to less than an inch tall, his muscle strength has decreased less than his mass, leaving him with superhuman strength. More info on scaling at one of my favorite pages on the web, The Biology of B-Movie Monsters.

Nathan ZiarekSep 18, 2007 at 5:22PM

Without reading all of the way to the bottom to see if perhaps Kottke has posted the correct answer, I think you should jump. :)

KPSep 18, 2007 at 5:38PM

Keep banging your head against the container, to get the attention of the person who is about to slice and dice you; perhaps a sympathy tantrum might get you a “Get out of the Glass Blender” free card.

Kevin FoxSep 18, 2007 at 8:26PM

Jump. If you’re not strong enough to jump straight over the top, then jump from one corner to a higher position on the opposite wall, arranging yourself to then jump off that wall to a higher spot on the opposite wall, and repeat until you’re over the top.

Your brain activity and reaction times should be sufficiently accelerated to handle repositioning yourself for each jump in midair, and the amount of stick required to do this is a lot less than to climb up the wall like a fly.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.

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