Breaking the Sound Barrier… on Horseback!

Aug 14, 2021

RAY:  Long before the advent of the train, travelers on horseback regularly broke the sound barrier. How'd they do it?

The inspiration for this puzzler was sent in by a fellow named Pierro Martilucci. 

Nowadays, we're very accustomed to high-speed travel. We have passenger planes that go close to 500 mph, and even our cars can go well over 100 mph. 

But until the advent of the train, the fastest that anyone could travel, unless you either fell off a cliff or were shot from a cannon, was as fast as a horse could carry or pull you. And yet, some of the people on horseback or driving a team of horses broke the sound barrier on a regular basis. 

How did they do it? And by the way, there are hints in here!



RAY: We discovered this phenomenon in the locker room in high school, with a wet towel. We would wet the end of a towel and you'd snap it, and it would make a loud “crack!”. 

The tip of the wet towel when it snapped at the end was going faster than the speed of sound, and that's why it hurt so much when we caught somebody in the butt. But the end of a whip is also traveling faster than the speed of sound. 

It's creating a little sonic boom. Pretty cute, huh?


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