WHIP IT GOOD
You don’t have to be Chuck Yeager to
break the sound barrier. You just need
a good bullwhip, which converts arm
movement into supersonic speed and
triggers the sonic boom we call a whip
I love the scene in The Blues Brothers when Joliet Jake Blues
(John Belushi) and his band are playing at a roadside dive.
The tough crowd is throwing bottles, and the chicken-wire
screen in front of the stage is doing only a mediocre job of
protecting them. Jake spies a coiled bullwhip hanging on the
wall, and a light bulb flashes in his head. He grabs the whip
and gets the band to strike up the Rawhide theme. With each
chorus, with each crack of the whip, the crowd’s demeanor
changes, and by the time the Blues Brothers finish the song,
the crowd is won.
Everyone loves the sound of a whip. But music and culture
aside, whips are interesting physical devices: self-contained,
human-powered machines that exceed the speed of sound,
which is roughly 770 mph. Bullwhips are easy to make at
home, and their deep, explosive crack is far more affecting
when you experience it live, rather than just hear it recorded.
Photography by Sam Murphy
Set up: p. 85
Make it: p. 86
Use it: p. 90
William Gurstelle is a MAKE contributing editor. He wrote the ornithopter flying machine project in Volume 08.
His fifth book, Whoosh, Boom, Splat, comes out this March.