English Physicists prove Roald Dahl wrong


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.

You can read much more about the experiment here at ThisisLeicestershire, and this short piece in The Telegraph.



  1. The good news is that physicists have read Roald Dahl.

    Seagulls fruitlessly tugging a peach? Hmmm. That’s something to think about.

    1. Thought you might like that one, Kathy 😀

      Praying the physicists never embark on Bram Stoker.

  2. How very depressing. His seagulls however are like Anne McCaffrey’s Dragons, they can do it if they think they can 😉

    1. I think we can allow Mr Dahl that…

      1. II am sure he is greatly relieved

  3. Seagulls and peaches? Sounds a bit of fruitless excercise…

  4. Did they take into account that the amount of peach which started the journey would have been dramatically reduced by the end? Seagulls are pigs.

    1. 😀 i don’t think that ever occurred to them….must alert the department…

  5. I love it. The good thing about reading is choice…one can choose to believe the number crunchers or one can choose to believe the fantasy! 🙂

    1. Yup! I’m for fantasy, myself, Chris 😀

  6. How very interesting!

  7. Sometimes you have to be just that little bit pendantic to find the punchline!!! Great stuff!!

  8. Oh dear, what a disappointment. I suppose you’ll be telling me next that George didn’t really have a marvellous medecine…..


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