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How Many Seagulls Would You Need to Lift James’ Giant Peach?

James And The Giant Peach
Walt Disney

In the popular Roald Dahl children’s book ‘James and the Giant Peach,’ the title character devises a clever ploy in which he gets exactly 501 seagulls to lift his beloved over-sized fruit up in the air and away from a gang of hungry sharks.

Dahl had been an ace fighter pilot before becoming an author, so it stands to reason he knew a little bit about the physics behind such a skyward movement.

But apparently he didn’t. Not even close.

Going off of Dahl’s description that the peach was the size of small house, students at the University of Leicester in England have calculated that it would take 2,425,907 seagulls to lift the fruit. To reach this massive sum, the students figured out how much force was needed to lift the peach and how much power a typical seagull had, based on the bird’s wingspan.

“It showed us that 501 seagulls would be nowhere near enough to lift the peach, and that it would take much more – nearly 2.5 million seagulls to do this,” student Emily Jane explained.

So thanks for that, Emily. You’ve just made a beloved, but improbable, children story even more unrealistic. Why don’t you do something useful like calculate how many Hershey bars it would take to make a raging chocolate river?

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