# Q & A: Accelerating feather?

Q:
At about what speed would a feather need to be accelerated to to pass though a piece of paper.And then according to the known laws of physics can the feather be accelerated to an infinite speed meaning it could pass through all matter if travelling fast enough? Or will the atoms in the feather degrade at a certain distance through matter and therefore there is a threshold of speed and distance it could travel? Thank you Saul
- Saul Wiseman (age 35)
Perth Australia
A:

Well, first of all, speed is therothically bounded by the speed of light (c = 300 000 000 m/s). Only massless particles can travel at c, all the rest can be theoretically accelerated to high speeds < c. Practically, the energy that you need to expand to accelerate to very high speeds approaching is quite infeasible, especially for high mass objects like a feather. A feather is basically an aligned bouquet of keratin fibers that are non-covalently interacting with each other. Applying excessive forces or torques on those elements would probably cause failure of one of those junctions.

There will be some inertia force on the individual forces due to the acceleration, that could lead to sample destruction. Sample being at rest and uniform high speed are equivalent, i.e. there is no force due to high speed only. So the good news: if you manage to build a suitable linear accelerator, I believe you should in principle be able to preserve the feather. That is because you can minimize the acceleration, but accelerate for a longer time, so a low inertial force. But, you need to use a linear accelerator, as rotation would also mean acceleration. Therefore you would need an infeasibly long system. Another problem is of course how you would apply an external force on a feather in the accelerator: you probably will need to find a way of introducing sufficient +/- charge.

Tunc

(published on 12/18/2015)