Scientist chips in with potato record

By Nigel Benson

Tom Pringle says letting fly with 320km/h potato blasts is an amazing feeling. Photo / ODT
Tom Pringle says letting fly with 320km/h potato blasts is an amazing feeling. Photo / ODT

Mashed spuds were the order of the day in Dunedin last night as stunt scientist Tom Pringle, aka Dr Bunhead, claimed a Guinness World Record, by using a potato bazooka to fire nine potatoes through a tennis racket in three minutes.

"It's the most amazing feeling. But, it was also incredibly nerve-racking," he said after breaking the record with a second to spare.

The experiment at Mitre 10 Mega was part of the 2014 New Zealand International Science Festival.

Spectators were pre-warned to bring "ear-defenders, safety goggles and extra-strong underpants" to the demonstration.

"They're exciting experiments and big, dangerous experiments. They're the sorts of experiments you don't get to do at home," Dr Pringle said.

The attempt was one potato better than his 2004 world record of shooting eight spuds in three minutes.

"Part of the test is firing the potatoes through a tennis racket, to quantify the velocity," he said.

"A good musketeer could fire three shots a minute, which included loading, firing and cleaning the gun."

The potatoes reached speeds of up to 320km/h in the demonstration, which has still to be ratified by Guinness World Records.

Two justices of the peace, two timers and two video cameras were required to verify the feat.

The Plymouth-born educator has an international reputation for his dramatic science shows and tours the world startling and fascinating children and adults.

"Science can be dull, or it can be fascinating. It's about the delivery and talking about stuff people are interested in," he said.

"It's all about getting the 'wow' moment. Because when you get the 'wow' you get the 'why?"'

Fast facts
161.3km/h - Fastest cricket ball bowled (by Pakistani Shoaib Akhtar, 2003).
263.4km/h - Fastest tennis ball served (by Australian Samuel Groth, 2012).
320km/h - A potato bazooka.
328km/h - Fastest recorded golf ball shot.
720km/h - Speed of an average .22 calibre bullet.
1224.7km/h - Speed of sound in standard atmosphere.

- Otago Daily Times

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