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Balloon Boy… I mean dog

November 10, 2011

A friend who knows how to properly use Twitter (in such that following her is interesting/entertaining to me… which is all that matters), shared a link today about a “prank gone too far” in which a dog had supposedly been attached to about 50 balloons, had floated away, and people were now on the look-out for the IFD (Identified Flying Dog).

The dog, "Charlie Roo" (source:

Here’s the link:
I honestly don’t recommend clicking it, since it’s for a pop radio station (92.3 NOW FM if you’re curious) and thus 1) this should be obviously fake from the start and 2) most of what’s on there is going to be the text equivalent of making a fart sound with your mouth while someone in the background laughs.

In any case, about a year ago another friend may or may not have asked me about trying to do the balloon lift thing to our friend’s small dog and I may or may not have run the calculations.  So the instant I read this article, I knew it was false (or I may not have, but I’m smart and can readily figure it out).

Let’s make you smart too…

What we know; the dog, a pomeranian responding to Charlie Roo, was supposedly lifted into the air by “about 50 balloons”

Pomeranians are small, which makes this seem potentially feasible.  I mean, they typically weigh somewhere in the 5-7 lbs range, that’s float-able, right?

I won’t go through the whole a lighter gas (helium in this case) displacing a heavier gas (or a mix or gases, air in this case, which is mostly nitrogen, oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and others, click here to learn some more) results in an upward force we call “buoyancy.”  The basic equation is:

buoyancy = density of air X volume of balloon X gravity


Taking everything into account, the result gives you that about a liter of helium can lift about a gram of mass.  Those balloons there don’t look like anything special, so about a foot in diameter.  Assuming they’re roughly spherical, this results in a volume of about 14 liters per balloon, noting that the equation for the volume of a sphere is V=(4/3) *pi*(readius^3).

So about 50 balloons holds about 700 liters which lifts about 700 grams which is about 1.5 pounds.  Meaning that even if this dog was a runt in the world of small dogs and weighed in at 5 lbs, you’d need more than 160 balloons to just give it neutral buoyancy in air.  And that’s just the dog.  With a simple harness, some string, and what appears to be a doggy sweater, we’re talking likely more in the range of than 200-300 to have any hope of it lifting off the ground.

Oh, and it just so happens that a quick google search suggests that a plush pomeranian toy tends to fall in the range of 0.5-1.5 pounds.  So congrats to whomever finds a stuffed dog tied to some deflated balloons.  You can call it in and get your 15 minutes of radio fame.

Host: Hello, caller, you found our dog?

Caller: Yes, yes I did, but it’s, uh…

Host: Congrats, tell us your name and where you’re from.

Caller: Uh, yeah, this is, um, Carrie Smith from Hacken…

Host: Phhtpbtpbtpbtpbttpbtpbtpbtpbt!  *click*


UPDATE: Brace yourself… the dog was a stuffed animal.  It was a promo and had tickets for a concert attached to it.  Also, way too many people thought it was real (possibly even the owner?).


From → MATH, random musing

One Comment
  1. kasten permalink

    hello i came to youre site, and I have read some awesome posts on it!

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