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22/11/2017
BBC Radio 4

    Calculating the height of Loxley Hall

    Oh dear. Now we've done it.

    In today's More or Less we calculated the height of Lower Loxley Hall - the ancestral home of the late Nigel Pargetter in The Archers - by timing the length of Nigel's scream as he fell from its roof. The answer: over 60 metres. That's the height of York Minster, or about 20 storeys. Quite a pile!

    Here's how we worked it out. Nigel's flailing form would have accelerated at almost 10 metres per second per second. He'd have started at a speed of zero and finished the first second at a speed of 10 metres per second - covering about 5 metres.

    During the next second he'd have fallen 15 metres. During the third second, 25 metres. We took the liberty of ignoring air resistance because terminal velocity - the speed at which air resistance balances the force of gravity - is over 55 metres a second. Within minutes of broadcasting the item, however, the More or Less inbox was inundated with comments like this:

    Your facile calculation did not take into account any time that Nigel may have spent sliding slowly down the icy roof.

    Or this:

    He could have started screaming as he began sliding towards the edge of the roof, realising he was doomed. And could his scream not have continued for a short while after hitting the ground? If his death was from internal bleeding leading to cardiac arrest, this would have been very possible.

    Well. Maybe. The presenter Tim Harford and I did discuss these possibilities before scripting the item. But we decided that had Nigel slid down the roof, we would have heard him do so. We also questioned whether he would really have started to scream before falling off. Wouldn't he have been too busy trying not to fall off?

    But as I write, the flood of emails continues. Clearly, we will have to re-visit our calculations next week. Tune in.

    Richard Knight is Series Producer of More or Less

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