Spell-Breakers: Can Racing Brooms Break Glass?
This is “Spell-Breakers“, the magically scientific column! From finding out if Nifflers’ pouches really are infinite to figuring out the different ways Memory Charms can work, no charm or potion can be spellbound for long! Meet your hosts, Jessica and Lawrence!
Jessica is a member of the Experimental Charms Department at the Ministry with ten years of custom Arithmancy and Charms spellwork and a third-grade science fair blue ribbon under her belt. She loves explosions, mysteries, and trying to figure out where all of her missing left socks go!
Lawrence has recently been let out of the Unspeakables’ chambers at the Ministry with 14 years of, well, Unspeakable magical experimentation going for him! He currently works for Hogwarts as their new Arithmancy professor and loves that he never has to cook again!
Together, they vow to answer all of your probing questions and perform experiments to find out exactly what it takes to BREAK THE SPELL!
Hey, everybody! Jessica here; today I’m going to be addressing a Howler that came into my office the other day. Apparently, a witch over in Hogsmeade village became very upset when a young wizard from Hogwarts blasted past her home on his racing broom and the resulting pressure wave broke all of her windows.
For those of our readers who didn’t grow up with Muggle science classes, the type of pressure wave that is our main suspect is called a sonic boom. A sonic boom happens when an object with mass travels through the air faster than the speed of sound, beyond Mach 1 at 330 meters per second or 767 miles per hour. When the sound barrier is broken, there is a sharp sound that accompanies the resulting pressure wave that sounds like an explosion. This pressure wave is known to cause windows to rattle in their frames, to cause damage to structures, and to scare pets and people alike. Now, our main question going forth is, can racing brooms reach these speeds?
There are a lot of different racing brooms on the market. There are Cleansweeps, Nimbuses, Firebolts, even the occasional Comet and Shooting Star. If a racing broom could indeed break the sound barrier, I see only one suspect – the Firebolt. This racing broom is known as the fastest in the business. Top speeds have been known to be around 150 mph. That’s just about the same speed as human terminal velocity. Despite the footrests, I have a feeling that anything over 150 mph, the rider would fly off the handle – literally!
That’s not to say that I didn’t test this out myself! Lawrence and I spent a day out at the Hogwarts school Quidditch pitch with some enthusiastic volunteers. While I’ve never played Quidditch myself, I can’t help but be impressed by those who overcome their natural instincts to be bound to the earth to play a game where the high-flying antics could cause one to die. Bravo! Anyway, players from the House teams spent their free class periods pushing their Firebolts (and even some Nimbuses) as fast as they could possibly go. The highest speed that we recorded all day was 151 mph, from Ravenclaw Quidditch captain Brandon Fischer’s Firebolt.
Considering that the fastest recorded speed of a Firebolt is 160 mph (thank you, Mr. Studmore!), we can safely rule out racing brooms as being incapable of reaching the required 767 mph to break the sound barrier. So the remaining question is, what could have done this?
My main suspects are the Bombarda charm, the Concussion Jinx, a thrown rock – this is a case of a prank either gone wrong or an accident that became wildly overexaggerated. After some research into disturbances in Hogsmeade, I learned that a rock had been thrown through a window of Madam Pudifoot’s Tea Shop. The offender (not even from Hogwarts school) had already been fined for the damages.
So in conclusion, racing brooms cannot break the sound barrier, watch where you throw rocks, and as always, stay curious!