PV=nRT and the Exploding Bra

If you didn't catch NPR's StoryCorps feature this week, you missed a charming doozy:

As a young woman, Betty Jenkins received a gift from her mother that was meant to attract the attention of young men. But as Jenkins, who is now 94, tells her niece, the attention she got wasn't the kind she was expecting.

"I was very skinny, and I didn't have any curves. I guess my mother got kind of worried, because she didn't think I had enough boyfriends," Jenkins said.

The gift was an inflatable bra that was designed to enhance its wearer's figure. A straw-like tube was used to inflate pads in the cups.

So, you can probably guess what happed when the young Ms. Jenkins was flying over the Andes Mountains in the unpressurized cabin of a passenger plane.

"The co-pilot came into the cabin with a gun, wondering what had happened. The men all pointed to me."

Jenkins then tried to explain in Spanish what she could hardly explain in English, "that part of your anatomy just blew up."

Take 3 minutes and 18 seconds out of your life and listen to Ms. Jenkins tell it.

By the way, I was always fond of invoking the ideal gas law when hiking or running at progressively higher altitudes during my years in the Rockies. When pressure decreases, volume increases (assuming all other variables remain constant) resulting in HAFE, high-altitude flatulent emission (not to be confused with the very serious high-altitude medical condition, HAPE).

The usual response from my hiking or running partner was, "That is not an ideal gas."

More like this

Not ideal indeed lol

I ROFLd so hard, I busted a....... well........ never mind.

By themadlolscientist (not verified) on 29 Jun 2008 #permalink

From a TLC or Discovery Channel video or maybe even a Smithsonian Magazine piece from a year or so back there is the inverse story: styrofoam cups are decorated with markers and affixed to deep submersibles. They compress at extreme depths to thimble size and are wildly popular souvenirs. Actually very neat. Have to find a link. What sound do they make as they begin their Incredible Voyage? Probably impolite.

@david, I saw that on Snopes but I can't believe that a 94-year-old woman would fib to the Library of Congress (not to mention her own niece). Is nothing sacred???

Maybe she's not lying and it didn't happen to her. False memories are so easy produce that friend of a friend to personal witnessing to happened to me are pretty easy to produce.

I swear most members of my family have the same story about fried rice from their youth as happening to them. When, in reality, it only actually happened to me. Clearly.

Mythbusters tested and couldn't get an inflatable bra to explode even if brought down to pressures that would be instantly lethal. While you can't exclude the possibility that she really had this experience using a substandard bra, my guess would be it's a false memory. She read about it and after a while she started to believe it had actually happened to her.

Okay readers - I've sent a note to NPR regarding your comments that we may have been pwned by a charming 94 yo woman. Keep an ear out in case we make it to their corrections segment.


I was suspicious of the story because of the years it involved. I rather doubt they were flying over the Andes before WW2, so this story would have occurred when the woman was in her 30s. That seemed rather late for her to be (suddenly) concerned about her figure.

I think I have heard other hoaxes on StoryCorps (I think that's what they call it). For example, the guy who was "robbed at knife-point" who also, out of concern for the mugger's health, offered his coat to the robber. They ended-up fast friends. Right. I've heard that one before.

Joe, transatlantic commercial flights started as early as 1929, barely two years after Charles Lidbergh's crossing to Paris. Look up the story of the Aeropostale and you'll see that commercial international flights were, if by no means common, existing in South America well before World War II.
At a time when we try to go to the moon 40 years after first flying there we tend to forget how fast technical progress was in the early days of aviation.


You could be right- I just had suspicions. I do know one can fly extensively, north-south, over South America without flying over the Andes. In addition, my (limited) reading of flight during WW2 noted that thin air was not the only problem with high altitudes, the frigid temperatures were hard to take. So, I wondered if passenger flight, over the Andes, was feasible in those days.

I also recalled that an over-the-Andes flight "disappeared" after WW2, and the wreckage was only found within the last ten years. It seems they were flying over cloud cover and were blown off course by the (yet-to-be-discovered) Jet Stream, and descended into a mountainside. I took it to mean that, in the late 40s, they did not have much experience with flight over the mountains.

Your comment is appreciated, and I recognize that my suspicions of other StoryCorps stories could be misplaced.

I'd go along with the confabulation/false memory theory rather than the "pwned by 94-yr-old" theory.