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Physics of Parade Balloons

Thanksgiving is full of traditions, but few have the same reach as the Macy's Day Parade that reaches 44 million television viewers every year. While bloated balloon animals seem to effortlessly float down New York City Streets, there's actually many hours of preparation required to make sure the parade goes off without a hitch. Below you can find a video detailing the science and "balloonatics" behind the annual event.

An inside look at the Balloonatics behind the annual parade. Video Courtesy Science Friday.

Despite their airy appearance, the balloons usually weight several hundreds of pounds which requires a whole lot of lift. With plenty of helium—sometimes as much as 14,000 cubic feet—the team can lift these massive objects. But all of that helium creates stress on the balloon material, so balloonatics spend up to a year designing the floats for size, strength, and integrity.

This year, you can catch the 85th Macy's Day Parade starting at 9 am in all time zones in the U.S. on NBC.


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