Bloomfield, author of the 2006 book How Everything Works, will be featured on the ABC news show 20/20 this week to debunk the widespread myth that a penny falling from a skyscraper could kill a pedestrian below. At ABC's request, Bloomfield designed an experiment– a weather balloon that spits out pennies. He sent it to several hundred feet and stood below, trying to catch the coins. According to an article published on abcnews.com, he missed, but several hit him, including one that smacked him on the chin. Rather than sustaining a fatal injury from the plummeting cent, Bloomfield calls the sensation "like getting hit by a bug." Pennies, according to the professor, are affected by air resistance, and so no matter what height you drop them from, they don't reach a high enough velocity to cause harm.
Not so for other objects. "Even if they're relatively small, if they're aerodynamically streamlined – like a ball point pen – they'll reach the point at which they're going a couple of hundred miles an hour," Bloomfield says, "and that's dangerous." 20/20 airs Friday night at 10pm.