Defying Gravity: the Ultimate Human Cannonball Quiz

By: Staff

4 Min Quiz

Image: refer to hsw

About This Quiz

Blastoff! Human cannonballs are blood-and-guts bullets that get standing ovations at the end of every show. How much do you really know about these muzzle-scarred heroes?

The first person to become a human cannonball was a man dressed as a woman. What was his stage name?

He was such a pretty boy. By all accounts, Lulu had a delicate build that helped her/him achieve a height of about 25 feet.


How did the first human cannons propel their payloads skyward?

Sproing! The very first contraptions used strong springs made of rubber.


The first human cannonball took flight where?

Top o' the morning to you, too! London was the site for the first human cannonball act, which used a platform instead of a cannon.


What did early human cannoneers use to create a crowd-pleasing, dramatic bang?

At least there was a real explosion somewhere during the performance. Half a cup of gunpowder was more than enough to provide the illusion of a real explosion.


What's the current world height record for human cannonballs?

It's high enough to scare the pants off of normal people. At 201 feet, this record could stand for a very long time.


How many pounds of pressure per square inch must a human cannonball withstand during liftoff?

It's enough to make a lot of people black out if they aren't in good physical condition. Estimates range from 3,000 to 6,000 pounds per square inch.


David "The Bullet" Smith Jr. once soared over which area?

Traveling the world by cannon is a hobby of his. Smith actually took wing over both the canyon and the border.


What's the cause of most fatalities in human cannonballing?

There's no thrill without the danger -- and the danger lies mostly in missing the life-saving net at the end of the flight.


Elvin Bale, "The Human Space Shuttle," overshot his airbag and suffered what kind of injury?

And still they say, "The show must go on." Bale was a paraplegic after his career-ending injury.


In feet, what's the world record for the longest horizontal distance traveled by a human cannonball?

David "The Bullet" Smith holds the record of 193 feet. That's an awful lot of footlong hot dogs from the circus.


Which family is credited with popularizing human cannonballing around the world for several decades?

They almost make you think it's not dangerous. The five Zacchini brothers survived thousands of blasts at events all over the globe.


What's the last, most critical test of the cannon before a performance?

Don't make us call you one! Workers fire a test dummy that's the same weight as the cannonballer to make sure the barrel's angle is just right.


During the blast, what speeds might human cannonballs reach?

You'd get pulled over going that fast on some highways. Estimates vary, but 60 miles per hour is about average.


How do modern cannons fire their human bullets?

It would get your computer's keyboard really, really clean. Compressed air is a common propellant, but performers refuse to divulge many details of their contraptions.


The barrels of human cannons are about how long, in feet?

It won't feel this long when you're blasting out the end of it. Most barrels are around 30 feet, enough length for a person to fit inside and to gain significant velocity.


What sort of safety gear do human cannonballs wear for protection?

It's hard to believe, but many people skip the helmet. Suits, on the other hand, seem to be mandatory to protect delicate flesh.


In early 2011, why did an English human cannonball die during his performance?

And it was only his second week on the job. Matt Cranch's safety net snapped away from its moorings after the cannon fired, leaving him to land hard on the ground.


In feet, about how long are the safety nets used to catch human cannonballs?

It probably looks like a postage stamp from up high. The nets can be about 50 feet long, but to work properly, the cannonballs must land on the last third of the net.


What was the name of the first human cannonball to work in America?

The English were simply obsessed with cannonballing. Zazel was a British woman who brought her act to the States in 1880.


Who invented the first device for launching humans skyward for show?

He was English, but he patented his device in the United States. George Farini started a trend that continues to this day, all over the world.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!