Friday, September 10, 2010

Back to School

What happened to August? I blame the cold weather-induced torpor I was in while hiding under the couch. Sluggish brain equals gross, squishy sentences whose slime trails into paragraphs until their subjects and predicates are separated by salt into a bubbly writhing mess. (With apologies to all actual slugs.)

Mr. Derick William Dalton fancies himself, or maybe past tenses himself, skilled in the dissemination of pithy mathy instruction and suave science education. I don't think he's really anything other than average. As proof, here's the transcript of a lesson I taught regarding physics, with no training whatsoever.


I find that math often interferes with initial understanding, then enhances it later. So to make it easy, lets make up our own units. And we'll assume velocity and acceleration are the same thing for further simplification.

A Subaru Impreza (mass of 1 horseless carriage unit) crashes into a Cadillac Escalade (mass of 4 horseless carriage units) The answer is the Subaru wins, because they are the awesomest cars ever.

But, if it was a Prius instead (1 hcu or 'hachoo'), and it and the Caddy were both traveling at 60 mph (100 kph or 1 easy math unit or emu, like the bird), the equations look like this:

Prius: Force = 1 hcu x 1 emu = 1 sneezebird unit
Escalade: Force = 4 hcu x 1 emu = 4 sbu

So the Escalade will plow through the Prius and push it until the friction (1 asphalt friction factor or aff) decreases it to zero sbu, at which point it will stop. The Prius, not the math. Math never stops. Ever.

If the road is uneven the math gets complex because one has to compensate for aff-holes.

So, to make the vehicles collide and stay where they collide, the sbu would have to be equal. We have to change the acceleration of the Prius. Like this.

Prius: F = 1 hcu x 4 emu = 4 sbu
Escalade: F = 4 hcu x 1 emu = 4 sbu

Since a Prius won't actually go 240 mph (240 mph = 400 kph = 4 emu), we could load the trunk of it with with a copy of War and Peace, a sack of Paul McCartney's fanmail, and the McDonald's cups we find on the roadside (mass of 1 hcu each). Like this.

Prius: F = 4 hcu x 1 emu = 4 sbu
Escalade: F = 4 hcu x 1 emu = 4 sbu

If you want to make the Prius explode, I'd recommend either diesel and fertilizer, or plastic explosives of a military or commercial construction grade. But stand way back and wear eye protection.



  1. Hi I am Shelly Dalton and no, I am not a box turtle. Actually I am a REALTOR, I dont carry a home around with me, but I try to get as many people as possible into them. Anyways, I have a google alert for my name (just to make sure whomever gets po'd at me doesn't post it online). Everytime you write in ur blog it comes thru my alert. I always stop to read just for fun. It is very entertaining especially like tonight when it is 1:00 am and I am still working. Thanks

  2. Yep. Watch out for the aff-holes. How come my physics class didn't make this much sense?

  3. p.s.
    That excerpt . . . awesome! Can't WAIT!