Recently, several climbers have harnessed the power of vacuum to scale massive skyscrapers.
Although we might not always realize it, vacuum plays a role in countless aspects of our everyday lives. In this series, we take a closer look at just how much we rely on vacuum, from the way we breathe to our bicycle helmets to life-saving medical procedures.
Earlier this summer, a 19-year-old man scaled the side of Trump Tower in a gravity-defying attempt to meet the Republican presidential nominee. Believe it not, the fact that he dangled above downtown Manhattan in his effort to get into the building isn’t even the wildest part of the story – it’s that he did so using giant suction cups to grip the glass façade.
According to Outside Online, the amateur climber used a pair of suction cup grippers to affix his hands to the glass. The devices use a conveniently placed hand pump to create a vacuum between the rubber platform and the surface of the building – apparently one strong enough to support a climber’s entire body weight.
As shocking as it may seem, however, the Trump Tower climber is far from the first daredevil to use vacuum to reach such dizzying heights.
Just a few months earlier, professional rock climber Sierra Blair-Coyle scaled a 33-story skyscraper using an LG vacuum cleaner. Check it out in the video below:
Modern application of an ancient technology
Long before climbers put vacuum’s suction power on display in death-defying stunts like these, scientists wondered over vacuum’s seemingly adhesive power in an entirely different context. In 17th century Germany, scientist Otto von Guericke used the world’s first vacuum pump to pull the air out from between two copper hemispheres sealed with grease. With the atmospheric pressure outside the device far outweighing that inside the hemispheres, it was practically impossible to remove one from the other – even when pulled apart by teams of horses.
The devices became known as the Magdeburg hemispheres, after the city in which von Guericke served as mayor, and the experiment has been repeated for centuries as a teaching tool to demonstrate the power of air pressure.
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