So: Roald Dahl, in his classic children’s book James and The Giant Peach, has a spectacular finale when James is borne across the Atlantic Ocean by 501 seagulls.
And, charging happily past the concept that any peach could be that big – or indeed that any child could be safely transported on it – fourth year physicists at the University of Leicester have calculated that you would need loads more seagulls than that, stupid.
The students took Dahl’s assertion that the peach was the size of a small house and then calculated its density by its volume to find that it would take 4,890,579 newtons to lift the peach.Turning their attention to seagulls they calculated how much a seagull might lift – given its speed, the density of the surrounding air and its wingspan.
Remember this. It could be useful one day. A seagull can lift two newtons.
It was just a hop, skip and a short division sum to work out that actually 501 seagulls would have been left fruitlessly tugging the peach on land. It would take 2,425,907 seagulls to take the peach anywhere at all.
And the best bit: it was all done with number crunching.
Not one seagull was harmed by being made to haul an outsized peach across water.