Friday, March 24, 2006


I'm not a science guy in any technical sense of the word. But, in the big picture, I am interested in science and I trust that it works. In the same way, I am dubious of any alleged phenomena that appear to violate a law of physics that I learned in highschool. So, I am willing to entertain the notion that there might be a big green monster in Loch Ness. I doubt that there is, but it does not violate any fundamental laws of physics, so what the heck. I am, however, not willing to accept reports of psychic healing, spoon bending, haunted rocking chairs, past life regressions, astrology, or a dozen other crackpot theories.

Today, while driving to work, a report came on the radio saying that Wisconsin is close to breaking a record for the number of deaths by snowmobile in a single year. The reporter from a Wisconsin radio station said, at least three times, that a problem with snowmobiles is that at night they "get out ahead of their lights." This strikes me as a problem of cosmic importance.

I know these souped up snowmobiles are fast, but I had no idea. To actually get out ahead of their lights (assuming we are talking headlights here), they would need to be going approximately 186,000 miles per second. My understanding is that if they were to do so, they would, relative to the rest of us, be gone for thousands of years. When they get back from the quick run to the local bar in the woods, everyone they know and love would be long dead. The Earth might be run by damned dirty apes.

Making matters more complicated, as the snowmobiles approach light speeds, they would (as viewed by a bystander) get taller, thinner, and heavier. Not something most of us want. At the same time, the careening snowmobiler would see the world going by all stretched out and flat.

None of this takes into account the many problems they would have accelerating to light speeds. Start with the sonic booms. Just a few hyperspeeding snowmobiles would cause havoc with the local environment. At some point, air friction would probably cause the snowmobile to burst into flames, also causing environmental damage. I have no idea how the operator breathes or withstands the G forces.

No wonder they are having accidents.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very funny!