A Spiderman wannabe is currently climbing the exterior of Trump Tower in New York City using only suction cups on his hands. The mysterious stuntman has a serious amount of faith in the power of physics – which is really the only thing keeping him from plummeting tens of stories to the inflatable crash pad below, recently rushed to the scene by concerned onlookers.
The intrepid climber, identified by NBC4 New York as a guy named Steve, appears to be using a set of grips sold as Zoro Powr-Grip Suction Cup Lifters. The cups have a diameter of only 10 inches — about the size of a dinner plate — but each have a maximum load capacity of 175 pounds. Steve looks like a pretty averaged sized guy. Perhaps his stunt, which he allegedly hopes will get the attention of Donald Trump, is not so absurd after all.
Here’s how Steve’s cups work. Think of them as a heavy-duty version of the suction cups you use to hang your loofah on your bathroom wall: The part that sticks to the wall is usually made of some kind of flexible plastic, which flattens and pushes out air when you press it down. Meanwhile, the outer edges of the cup want to stick to the wall to create an airtight seal.
When Steve pushes air out of the cups against the slick exterior walls of Trump Tower, he effectively reduces the pressure inside them. Remember, high pressure is created when you have a lot of air in a small space; by pressing down, Steve is removing some of that air, but the space remains the same. Now, there’s a pressure difference between the inside of Steve’s cup and Manhattan’s atmosphere, which has a relatively higher pressure. It’s this difference that keeps the cup stuck to the glass — and Steve from plunging to his maybe-death.
The strength of the cup — that is, the amount of weight it can support — depends largely on the difference in pressure it can create between its inside and outside. The Zoro lifters’ 10-inch diameter isn’t exactly huge, but so far, it’s been enough to maintain a strong enough pressure differential to keep Steve alive.