Science

Physics Explains Maryland Fan's Epic Beer Can-Crushing Skills

When eagles soar swiftly through the air or grasshoppers leap powerfully between twigs, they illustrate a healthy respect for the laws of physics. Their movements are so elegant because they maximize efficiency; no energy is wasted because evolution has tuned wings for speed and legs for jumping.

On Saturday, an unnamed University of Maryland hero put those same principles to work, crushing a beer can on her head so smoothly that it put nature to shame.

The viral video, posted to Twitter by Texas lawyer David Ruff, shows a woman standing on a table as she catches a can of beer above her head, jerks her arm back for propulsion, crushes the can on her forehead and flips it expertly above her mouth to pound its contents. The Maryland Beer Queen does all of this in one natural, fluid motion, draining the can in a matter of seconds. Honestly, David Attenborough should be narrating this shit.

As many YouTube videos illustrate, it is not easy to squash a beer on your head, let alone shotgun its contents afterward. But there are definitely ways to use physics to make it easier, and it’s likely that the MBQ used them, whether she knew it or not.

For starters, the biggest obstacle to get past is the difficulty involved in opening up a tube of aluminum on your skull. Cans usually have some give to them, which makes bursting them more difficult (and shipping them safely much easier). Like a balloon that’s slightly deflated, a regular can of beer is hard to pop because the pressure inside it is not very high.

But if your goal is to smash it on your head with ease and minimal pain, then you’ll need to increase the pressure inside it. Basic physics dictates that there are three ways you can increase gas pressure inside a can: increasing the amount of gas in the can, warming the whole thing up, and decreasing the can’s volume. Shaking a can releases all the carbon dioxide from the liquid beer as gas, and those gas molecules move around more in the can when it’s warm, which is why unchilled beer fizzes so much more.

We don’t know how cold MBQ’s beer was, but we do know it was lobbed through the air rather quickly, so it’s fair to assume its contents were not still. When she smashed the can on her head, she effectively shrank the volume of the can, compressing all the gas inside it and increasing its pressure. It eventually built up to the point where the can literally couldn’t contain it anymore, and so it burst.

There are ways to fine-tune this technique. A report by Motherboard suggested that it pays to aim to hit the center of the can with your skull while simultaneously pulling on the sides, which makes the metal in the middle of the can weaker. For similar reasons, tall, thin cans are easier to break, and you can cheat by first denting the can before skull-crushing the damn thing.

MBQ does not seem to take any of this into account — her can has a regular height and width, and she seems to make contact near the top — suggesting that even her seemingly perfect moves could be made more perfect.

But she finishes the act with a fluidity that can only be described as miraculous. Shotgunning a beer traditionally involves poking a mouth-hole in the end opposite the regular opening (“spiking” it), sticking your mouth over the new hole while holding the can horizontally, then popping the tab at the top. MBQ does her thing using just one hand, so she’s not using her fingers to pull the tab, and judging by the way she holds the can as she drinks, it looks like she’s drinking from the usual opening. We can’t know for sure, but it’s entirely possible that the technique she used to hulk-smash the can just caused it to open the usual way but spilled out with more force — now that would be efficiency at its peak.

There’s a lot we don’t know about MBQ’s impressive technique, but she has already taught us plenty about the beauty of being energetically efficient. Like her fellow University of Maryland fan below, let’s take a moment to appreciate that she’s attained a degree of locomotor excellence that evolution usually takes millennia to perfect.

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