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# The Wild Physics of a Firefighter's Window Catch

Are superheroes real? Maybe. In this recently released video, a firefighter in Latvia catches a man falling past a window. Let me tell you something. I have a fairly reasonable understanding of physics and this catch looks close to being impossible—but it’s real.

Here is the situation (as far as I can tell). A dude is hanging on a window (actually, the falling human is only rumored to be a male) and then he falls. The firefighters were setting up a proper way to catch him, but it wasn’t ready. Of course the only solution is then to catch him as he falls. It seems the victim fell from one level above the firefighter. At least that’s what I’m going to assume. Now for some questions and answers.

### How fast was the human moving?

This is a classic physics problem (I hope my students are paying attention). An object (or human) starts from rest and then begins to fall under the influence of the gravitational force. If the gravitational force is the only significant interaction on the human then that person will fall with a constant acceleration of 9.8 m/s2. That means that for every second of free fall, the human’s speed will increase by 9.8 m/s (hint: 9.8 m/s is fairly fast—about 22 mph).

If I knew the time the human was falling, I could easily determine the speed since it increases a set amount every second. However, I can only approximate the distance the person falls. Of course that is only a small stumbling block for physics. In fact there is a kinematic equation that gives the speed of an object with a constant acceleration after a certain distance (you can also easily derive this with the definition of average velocity and acceleration). But if the object starts from rest and moves a distance y, then the final speed will be: