A Serious Dumb Question

Ok, this just occurred to me, and is killing me. My GF says I’m not defining the parameters well enough, but I know a bunch of male gamers will be able to get what I’m talking about.

Question: How far can a man throw anything at all?*

*with restrictions

So, I’m wondering what the farthest it is possible to throw anything suited to the task, best thing win. However, and please let’s pay attention or this thread will completely dissolve in “what abouts?”:

  1. The thing cannot generate lift.

I know that we can already ad infinitum talk about “generate” and “lift”, but let’s just assume that we’re trying to discount frisbee-like objects that gain distance by aerodynamics, rather than straight force-application.

  1. The thing must be of one piece, and all of it must be thrown.

This is easier, just to discount projectile weapons like an atlatl.

So, what’s the best possible thing for throwing, a ball? An olympic hammer-type ball on a string? Some freaky hinged thing?

Bonus points to anyone who can Google up where this has been experimentally done.


Pre-Post edit: Ok, let’s just discount air altogether. How far, and what type of thing, can a man possibly throw in a vacuum, flat surface, normal gravity?

How far…can a man possibly throw in a vacuum, flat surface, normal gravity?

Is the correct answer “farther than a girl”?


Heh. For reference, the thing that set this off was reading in a Lonely Planet guide to Argentina that prehistorics could throw a bola 90 meters. After a loud “Bullshit they could!” I started wondering if the hammer-like properties of a non-aerodynamic thing like a bola could really enhance raw distance.


The longest javelin throw has been 104 metres, for reference.

Some quarterbacks in the NFL can throw footballs well beyond 70 yards.

I think the reference projectile should be a 1 Kg sphere

Found here http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/

Longest Throw, no tail

The record the longest throw of an object without any velocity-aiding feature is 427.2 m (1,401.5 ft) by David Schummy (Australia) with a boomerang on 15 March 2005 at Murrarie Recreation Ground, Queensland, Australia.

Not the Longest Throw, so don’t throw these.

Farthest Human Cannonball Flight
The record distance for a human fired from a cannon is 56.54 m (185 ft 10 in), by David “Cannonball” Smith Sr. This human cannonball feat occurred on May 29, 1998, at Kennywood Park, West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, USA. It is estimated David was traveling at over 112 km/h (70 mph) during the flight! Despite all the airtime in his chosen profession, there is not a part of performing that David doesn’t enjoy. “I am able to do something that is entertaining for people,” he says, “I truly enjoy people!” He has eight children and five of them are human cannonballs! “The others are still too young!” he laughs. Continuing in their father’s sky-high tradition is obviously in their blood!

I couldn’t hunt up anything about the longest throw with a tail, so I assume that is still up in the air. I wonder what the specifics for it are.

Whuuurt?! Those things are basically built to fly - they even have an aerodynamic shape and everything! (seriously, from the edges they look just like wings!)

Let’s say the object is an ordinary ball-bearing, say 0.5 kg. I don’t see any reason for it to be heavier. Maybe, I don’t know, twice the size of a pinball. Conceivably a smaller osmium shot of around the same weight would be a little better but now we’re getting silly as well as risking heavy-metal poisoning over a prolonged training period…

In that case, having specified the conditions so precisely I really have to admit I have no clear idea, but I’d have to guess a ball-bearing-specialized athlete could possibly throw one something like 300 meters.

Let’s see, for comparison a really good center-fielder can throw a baseball around 150 meters to home plate, but in this sad and diminished latter day age of poor-fielding outfielders, they will usually bounce it or go for the cut-off man. Who knows how far Willie Mays could throw one. On the other hand, a baseball is much lighter as well as a little harder to grip than a ball-bearing, so I think that makes my 300 meter estimate plausible.

That boomerang is no fair, as they are flying wings – they generate a lot of lift, even the straight-line type that doesn’t return.

The problem with your ball bearing theory is a small object with little mass and no aerodynamics will be more affected by wind resistance.

I’m not talking about some tiny pellet bearing for a toy engine or something like that, a bearing that weighs 0.5 kg is pretty massy and solid, and doesn’t seem like it should be more affected by air resistance than it is by the thrower’s arm (i.e., the additional velocity you can give a lighter object on throwing it should overcome the air resistance, but that’s just a guess for a 0.5 kg sphere.)

I was just guessing at the ideal mass, but clearly there is some ideal steel sphere mass for thrown-distance given a fixed impulse that can be generated by a given human arm.

The question is, what is the ideal balance point between the 1/2 mv^2 energy formula and the 0.2 D^2 v^2 formula for air resistance force on a steel sphere, and to answer this we need to know what the maximum actual energy that our ideal human can exert by throwing an object. Having posed the question, I will leave the answer as an exercise for the student because I have no idea how to answer it…

Man, this is a great thread for waiting for data to add to the game engine…

If any of you participating in this thread are sober, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

Midget hurling is a traditional sport in Scotland. As long as the limbs flail consistently while in flight, they perfectly cancel out the aerodynamic characteristics of the core portion of the midget and provide an accurate and incisive determination of human strength.

First, the boomerang clearly falls afoul of the “no lift” rule. For spheres, it can be any combination of size/mass, just whatever produces the farthest throw.

As for balls, whatever you want, just what has been thrown the farthest? It doesn’t have to be pre-existing, if someone made something that was the perfect balance of size and weight, it’s all good.


No. The correct answer is “farther than two girls”.

Feels like a question for the straight dope.

That’s a bad mofo.

The shape will also come into play. They added dimples to golf balls so that they would fly further and straighter. Does this count as a kind of artificial lift (example question)? I guess not if the contest was in a vaccuum. :)