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Faster than a Speeding Bullet

Posted on February 17, 2012 in Articles

Edgerton Bullet through Playing Card

Modern, high-end consumer cameras are capable of capturing 60 frames per second (fps), and the fastest camera in the world can take over a trillion frames per second.

However, the field of high-speed photography was still in its infancy in the early 1930’s. Professor “Doc” Edgerton was one of the early pioneers of strobe photography.

During his long and distinguished career as a professor at M.I.T., Dr. Edgerton produced dozens of wonderful photographs with a tremendous degree of artistic merit. This is all the more impressive when you consider that creating works of art wasn’t his goal per se; Dr. Edgerton’s goal was good science.

One of Edgerton’s most famous series of photographs depicts bullets passing through everyday objects. Apples, bananas, balloons, light bulbs, and playing cards were all shot (pardon the pun!) in Edgerton’s lab. In our slightly biased opinion, one of his best photographs is called Cutting the Card Quickly (1964).

The picture shows a bullet tearing through a King of Diamonds. The card in the photograph was a Racer Back No. 2, one of the Bicycle® brand playing card designs popular in the 1960’s. Photograph by Harold E. Edgerton. Courtesy of MIT Museum © 2010 MIT.