I missed the whole balloon boy thing, it was a busy day, and happily none of the people I follow on twitter seemed to get wrapped up in it. So it wasn’t until later that night, once local news rolled on after network tv, that I saw the balloon soaring through the air. After 2 seconds of footage I was really baffled that anyone thought there was a kid in there.
Balloon’s rise because they are lighter than air. Effectively that creates a force that pulls the thing up (that’s a big simplification, but good enough). If there had been a child amount of weight in the balloon the thing would have a pretty substantial force pulling down. The balloon would be vertically stretched. It was not. This is pretty basic stuff, and not very hard to figure out. The folks at Wired just posted something that goes through this in even more detail.
The whole story cycle represented the 2 things that I hate most about cable news at this point. Giving far too much coverage to totally inane events (creating a self fulfilling prophecy and creating more of them), and spending so little time fact checking anything that goes on the air. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised given that the science team was deemed expendable, but I’m still disappointed.