What is required of a successful human cannonball?

While Hentoff-Killian is not opposed to taking longer flights in the future, once she gets more comfortable with the cannon, she’s not sure if she’ll ever want to fly while in flames. “You have to hold your breath when you’re on fire,” she says, “and I like to breathe.”

And this:

The Human Cannonball doesn’t usually remember much about each flight, aside from a quick impression of soaring through the air. On the other hand, she has just been shot out of a 24-foot-long air-compression cannon and travels between 75 and 100 feet at a force of 7 g. That’s greater force than a roller coaster, greater than a Formula One racecar, greater than the space shuttle. A force powerful enough to have caused some human cannonballs to pass out midflight. This has never happened to Elliana Grace in more than 100 shots since she took the job last October. Still, she’s in the air approximately three seconds. How much would you remember?

Here is much more, very interesting throughout.  Some human cannonballs keep the job for as many as seventeen years.  By the way, Hentoff-Killian, the featured individual in the story, is the granddaughter of Nat Hentoff.

Hat tip goes to @RobertCottrell.


"Anything is possible." ... so true and what a lively example.

P.S. it's more likely that Ellianna Hentoff-Killian is Nat Hentoff's granddaughter and Michael Killian's daughter (as the article says).

thanks, corrected.

An interesting article about the human cannonball's mother, Jessica Hentoff


7g would be an acceleration. It is what makes you black out as the solid parts of you accelerate quickly and the fluid parts (e.g., blood) lag behind, so the forward part is starved of oxygen and the back is flooded. This only occurs while the "human cannonball" is inside the cannon. Once the person is outside the barrel, acceleration stops. Given enough time, the body would return to normal (like on a cruising jet).

Well, the force is proportional to the acceleration and it is the force of the cannon which makes you accelerate. Actually acceleration would continue for a short time outside of the cannon, until the pressure in front and behind the body equalizes.

You are absolutely right: "acceleration would continue for a short time outside of the cannon, until the pressure in front and behind the body equalizes."

Though the article speaks of "a force of 7g," it actually means a force that will produce an acceleration of 7g. That acceleration would be 7 seconds X 9.8 meters/second/second = 68.6 m/s/s = 153 miles per hour per second, the equivalent of going from zero to 153 mph in one second.

> That acceleration would be 7 seconds X 9.8 meters/second/second = 68.6 m/s/s = 153 miles per hour per second, the equivalent of going from zero to 153 mph in one second.

When you consider it in these terms, it is pretty amazing. Puts race car drivers to shame.

As it should. Because, cannon!

I'm just amazed. I have to see this show.

This is not the typical and ridicule "mind over matter" discourse. It's more complex, more human. There's fear, there's a contract, painful training, they joy of flying, but mainly the desire to do it.

After reading this, I love people a little bit more =)

This activity clearly deserves to become an Olympic sport. He who gets shot furthest wins.

Extra points for staying conscious?

Not enough competitors of her caliber...

How much brain damage does this sudden acceleration do?

Probably a lot. Just like shaken baby syndrome or concussions in boxing and football, their brains and other organs are probably being compressed and decompressed or rattled within bony cavities. I would gather from the anecdotes of people with lots of experience that some people tolerate it better than others. On the other hand, the evidence is anecdotal and suffers from survivor and selection bias.

If it were undoubtedly true that this caused them harm, what should be done about it? I'm not generally a fan of government intervention when risks are known and paid for. Some people sell their lives too cheaply and without full information.

On my first seven parachute jumps, I only faintly remembered my exit and counting until my chute deployed. It was only after my tenth jump or so that I was aware of what was going on in those four seconds. By my twentieth jump, I could feel or hear the pack closing ties breaking.

Human awareness sharpens the senses with experience. Good batters in baseball, good goalies in hockey, and good shooters probably really do see the world in slow motion as they build accuity. But in this case the rate of changes are probably too high for the human mind and senses to keep up.

Motion pictures are another good example. Most of us see the film as nonstop action. An experienced movie director or editor could probably look at a film they had no part of and tell you what the editor did in a single frame.

One question in my mind is that when humans develop hyperaccuity aka "dead eye", what happens to their perception of the broader environment? My guess is that their mental and physical focus becomes so narrow they lose awareness of the bigger picture, like a microscope.

reminds me of this

Are there people who watch that and don't see the gorilla? While watching, I figured the gorilla was there to distract you from counting passes.

I'd have to check with you here. Which just isn't something I ordinarily do! I get pleasure from reading a post that can make people today think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

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