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My physics teacher said that he saw a guy playing a very large wind instrument on TV, and the guy apparently calculated that the total energy present in the instrument when he was playing was almost as high as the energy of the atomic bombs dropped in WW2. How is it possible to contain and direct so much energy in the human body without destroying it? This is very hard to believe. Thanks!

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Agreed that sounds hard to believe. I'm pretty sure that calculation is off by, oh, 10 orders of magnitude or so. – Chris White Jun 17 '13 at 1:41
Haha i don't know maybe it's true or maybe my teacher didn't understand properly because english is not his first language. – Ovi Jun 17 '13 at 1:47
And when I asked my teacher about it he said that it does sound like a lot but the guy calculated it, and there is a lot of energy per square meter from that vibration, and apparently it was an very large instrument. He also said that the bomb produced destructive energy, so this was different. – Ovi Jun 17 '13 at 1:50
up vote 3 down vote accepted

The energy produced by the Hiroshima detonation is estimated to be $63\text{ TJ}$ ( $63 \times 10^{12}\text{ Joules}$). Later detonations were much much larger.

If an individual is going to excite the resonances of the wind instrument with that much energy, conservation of energy requires that the same amount of energy must be put into the instrument by the person playing the instrument. Note the following conversion:

$$63 \text{ TJ} \approx 1.5\times 10^{10} \text{ kilocalories}$$

When we refer to food caloric content, we say calorie when we refer to kilocalories. E.g., 1 pound of human fat corresponds to 3600 kilocalories.

In other words, putting 63 TJ of energy into a musical instrument would require burning 4.16 million pounds of fat almost instantaneously.

This seems unlikely, to say the least.

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