Why the laws of physics mean Will Smith’s birthday stunt probably won’t kill him

For his 50th birthday next month, Will Smith will bungee-jump from a helicopter over the Grand Canyon. It’s a dramatic stunt that strikes fear into the hearts of fans (or at least some Verge staffers; you know who you are) who wonder whether it’s possible he’ll spring directly up into the helicopter’s blades.

That’s not going to happen. Will Smith isn’t the first one to bungee-jump from a helicopter, and no one — not Smith, not the non-famous adrenaline junkies who enjoy bungee jumping — would do it if it meant being shredded. But why is it safe?

Will Smith is protected by one of the most fundamental laws of physics, called the conservation of energy, explains Chad Orzel, a Union College physicist and writer. The conservation of energy…

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