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Just saw in a movie, a guy jumped off a building using a lawn umbrella as a parachute. Would that work in reality?

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    For some values of "lawn umbrella" and "building" and "ground" sure. Certainly not for most of the lawn umbrellas I've seen, most of which are very weak. Some are actually designed to invert in heavy winds specifically to avoid damaging themselves. Further, you fail to specify "work" - is the intent merely to reduce the risk of death, or does it eliminate all chance of injury such that the person then could get up and walk away? Keep in mind that even a perfect lawn umbrella (weightless, doesn't collapse, etc) will still have a higher terminal velocity than a parachute. – Adam Davis Jul 17 '11 at 1:11
  • Unscientific as it may be, I believe mythbusters did test this. Their result was the impact with the ground is fatal. – Fake Name Jul 17 '11 at 6:51
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The science entertainment television show, MythBusters, investigated this claim in their 18th episode (in the 2004 season).

Wikipedia summarised their findings:

Opening an umbrella will slow a fall from a building enough to make it survivable: Busted

Though different umbrellas did slow a fall, the impact was still deadly. A real parachute was also tested but found to be unable to properly arrest a fall from only 60 feet (18 m). The best an umbrella can do is hold the person somewhat upright, causing less damage to the head.

The MythBusters team do an excellent job of promoting the concepts of testing claims through experiment, but they cannot be considered the most rigorous of scientific investigators. However, for a claim of this level of unimportance, it seems a sufficient level of evidence. If you were planning to risk your life jumping off buildings with just an umbrella, I would urge further experimentation!

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    I bet there are some MythBusters fans here with copies of the 2004 series. Would anyone care to expand on the summary, and describe what the experiment was and how it turned out? I have only vague recollections of the episode. – Oddthinking Jul 17 '11 at 10:50
  • I recall they dropped dummies from various heights with and without umbrellas. Lower than 18m the umbrella had no measurable effect, from 18m and beyond it had an effect, but never enough to make a fatal fall survivable. – John Lyon Feb 22 '12 at 6:07

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