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The Wolfram|Alpha Team

Launch That Pumpkin!

November 24, 2009 —
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Ah, fall! The signs of the season are all around us: the sounds of leaves rustling along the sidewalks, the smell of piping hot apple cider, and the sight of 12-pound pumpkins being hurled through the air at speeds upwards of 350mph. Yes—pumpkins!

Recently, we had an opportunity to participate in one pumpkin pastime that’s right up Wolfram|Alpha‘s alley. We’re not talking about pies here, we’re talking about the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation’s CUPunkin’Chuckin’ Challenge! Punkin’Chuckin’ is the art of hurling pumpkins (or multiple pumpkins) great distances with smartly engineered, often homemade, devices such as trebuchets and catapults. In a typical Punkin’Chuckin’ competition, the goal is simple—to go the distance, or in this case, to hit a city bus.

This is one competition you have to see to believe.

Yes, we know what you’re thinking. We want to build our own, too!

You can tap into Wolfram|Alpha for a projectile formula that allows you to calculate scenarios for the distance traveled, maximum height, initial speed, and release angle of a projectile. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the distance and velocity these gourds can fly may be affected by environmental factors such as wind speed.

Click the image below to try it for yourself:

Wolfram|Alpha calculates the travel time of a projectile


Very cool. Needs mass and density added in though.

Posted by BlockJuice November 24, 2009 at 4:58 pm

I can’t believe it. We actually do an entire lesson on the SMARTBoard with the pumpkin launch in our SMARTBoard training. How ironic and completely COOL!

Posted by Shannon Smith November 24, 2009 at 9:21 pm

again nice tool…

Posted by dhiraj November 25, 2009 at 12:56 am

The miracle of lights — Chanukah –is coming soon…so…how much oil does it take to keep nine lights going for one full day (from sunrise to sunset); now, figure the smallest amount needed for eight days. Btw, I rather doubt they used wicks, just some small compartment on each Menorah arm to hold the oil. W/A, go for it.

Posted by Andrew Meit November 25, 2009 at 3:22 am

Pumpkin ballistics… I just love when formulas come alive by transforming these into ‘real’ things. One hell of a fast pumpkin blyde. Maybe this is the way we will travel back and forth between NL and the UK in the near future.

Posted by Remmolt Zwartsenberg November 26, 2009 at 1:17 am

I can see that the function works very well after watching the awesome video.

I have one question: How many shots did you fire and how many of the hit/miss the target? Did you really hit with every single shot? 🙂

Posted by warrior guide July 15, 2010 at 2:47 am