Could a Penny Dropped off a Skyscraper Really Kill Someone?

In physics, the momentum, or force, that a moving object can deliver to something it strikes depends on the size of the moving object, its mass, and the speed at which it is moving (its velocity).

When we drop a penny from a very high building, its velocity keeps increasing until the penny reaches terminal velocity. An object as light as a penny, if dropped from a high enough place, can strike the ground with greater force than a heavier object falling a short distance.

However, a penny, dropped from a building or skyscraper, does not have enough force to kill someone because it does not have a high enough terminal velocity.

Terminal Velocity is when the downward force of gravity equals the upward force of drag by air friction of a free falling object. This causes the net force on the object to be zero, resulting in an acceleration of zero.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

14 thoughts on “Could a Penny Dropped off a Skyscraper Really Kill Someone?”

  1. A falling penny has almost 0% chance of killing someone because of something called terminal velocity. It is the maximum speed an object can fall, because of wind resistance so a penny would not be able to generate enough speed to kill someone unless perhaps they got hit in the eye then it would still be unlikely.

  2. MythBusters tested this myth and what this answer doesn’t factor in is the penny’s terminal velocity (the fastest speed the object can reach when being pulled down by gravity alone). They found that the terminal velocity of the penny limits the damage the coin causes on the human body and if a person gets hit straight on top of the head (barring the person having a soft skull) the person will live.

  3. “A penny’s terminal velocity is too low and its mass too small for it to penetrate human skin – let alone penetrate concrete or asphalt. Even when fired from a rifle, the penny was unable to penetrate concrete. It did, however, decimate the ballistics gel dummy.”-Mythbusters

    before posting so-called “facts”, do some research. All i had to do was Google Mythbuster’s homepage, find “Penny Myth”. Next time, save yourself the embarassment of having your posted info proved wrong and research what you’re telling millions of people veiwing this site.

    -Semper Fidelis-
    PFC Plaisance, R.A.

  4. This is wrong! Objects accelerate at a rate of X meters per second per second. However, once it reaches a certain speed, its terminal velocity, it stops accelerating and falls at that speed until it is slowed or hits something. The penny will reach its terminal velocity at around 30-60 MPH and even if it hits a person, it wouldn’t kill or even break skin. It would just hurt.

  5. You’re negating air friction. A penny will reach a terminal velocity. Considering its mass, the momentum (p=mv) will be too small to cause a death.

  6. Well, thats only true if your in a vacuum otherwise the penny will reach terminal velocity. Depending on the terminal velocity of a penny it could or could not reach terminal velocity. It might hurt you to get hit by the penny but unlikely to kill someone.

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  8. I really dont understand why you guys are ripping him up,
    “However, a penny, dropped from a building or skyscraper, does not have enough force to kill someone because it does not have a high enough terminal velocity.”

    Isn’t that exactly what he said? Or am I missing a page, because this guy seems totally right, it could never kill someone or break skin, just a little sting.

  9. First and foremost, if you’re going to tell someone they’re wrong, spell correctly, it makes you look less credible when you can’t use the correct form of “your.” Also, speed IS NOT in any way shape or form the same thing as velocity.. so if you’re going to back something up with physics do it correctly!

  10. He’s still your friend after that? Loyalty like no other. If someone did that to me the relationship might be terminated. Call me fickle, but I might badmouth somebody if that was done to me.

  11. The terminal velocity of a penny is 65 mph. This is too slow to even break the skin. It is also very unlikely to hit anyone as the level of accuracy is very low.

  12. I’ve been doing a project at school on this topic of; Can a penny dropped from a great height kill someone, and i’ve been finding it quite difficult because of all the physics involved. Cheers for the comments guys, they really helped.

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