Illustration for article titled Can you be killed by a champagne cork?

There is a "fact" going around the internet that a person is more likely to be killed by a champagne cork than a poisonous spider. But can a champagne cork really murder a human being?


There's no question that, if left untreated, certain spider bites can be fatal to human beings - although antivenoms have been developed. But there are merely rumors that people have been killed by champagne corks. Supposedly, the cage that goes around the cork, and the technique of sabering the champagne, were invented so no others had to die in this unpleasant way. But can a champagne cork really take out a human being?

All indications point to 'no.' Recently, a German scientist clocked corks as coming out of the bottle at about 24.8 miles per hour. He measured this under a constant pressure of about 2.5 bars - bars being kilograms per square centimeter. At 3 bars of pressure, he believed that a champagne cork could travel at up to 60 miles per hour. Even under these extreme conditions, a cork doesn't look deadly. For comparison, a bullet goes betwee 600 to 1100 miles per hour. Even at 60 miles per hour, a bullet would have a tough time killing a person. We'd need something like a Chevrolet to manage it at that speed.


There's no guarantee, though, that someone wouldn't be hit by the cork in a vulnerable place. As the Joker showed us, even a pencil can be a murder weapon when applied to the eye. Fortunately, there are precedents for this - unfortunately, they tip the scales of pleasantness in favor of spider-attack. There are several people every year who are hit directly in the eye while opening champagne. These are mostly the openers themselves, who look down at the champagne as they're opening it to see their progress. No deaths are reported. What are reported are detached retinas, scratched corneas, permanent damage, and 'ruptured' eyeballs. An eyeball 'ruptures' when the entire bag of mush tears apart and has to be stitched back together again. Yes. You read that right. Eyeball stitches. Still, even a direct hit to the eye from a cork, with no chance to blink, can't kill a person. Spiders are still probably the more deadly of the two.

No word, though, on whether a poisonous spider launched at the eye from a champagne bottle can kill someone.

Image: Kristin Bradley

Via ABC and Decanter.


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