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... some sane comments

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Editor's Note : This piece of sanity from D Miers is probably funnier than the original piece.

The Jet-Assisted Take Off award is clearly an example of "Urban Techno-Folklore" While not a physicist (nor do I play one on TV) I present the following case:

A couple of things are out of kilter. The structural limitations of a '67 Impala and the average human being's technological capability to attach such a unit to the vehicle negate the story's validity.

The first, and fundamental, problem arises from the potential location of the JATO unit on/in the vehicle.

Option 1. Mount it on the trunk (in my opinion the most logical place) of the car. The amount of thrust necessary to generate the G-Forces (similar to F-14 fighters) referenced in this story would easily separate the trunk lid (the key latch and/or spring hinges and 1/4" screws-take your pick which surrenders to the force first) from the rest of vehicle. This would result in launching the JATO unit ahead of the car independent of the remainder of the vehicle.

Option 2. Presuming the unit was mounted on the roof of the car - the guy's odds are a little better but still slim. Cars that slam into the rear end of tractor trailers often easily remove the car roof from the rest of the body - usually at only 55 - 70 mph. Again, the kind of forces we are talking about here would have created a sardine can effect, gradually (maybe in 5-9 seconds) peeling the roof of the car away.

Option 3. The JATO unit could not possibly have been *in* the trunk as, for the same arguments as above, when the floor of the trunk finally gave way to the thrust, the unit would, in the best case, tear through the center of the now rapidly decelerating vehicle (decelerating because the thrust source was no longer attached to the vehicle) seriously injuring the vehicle's occupant.

Option 4. Had the guy been dumb enough to attach the JATO unit to the hood, well, the repercussions would be clear. Besides not being able to see where he was going, igniting the unit would liquefy the windshield and bar-b-que the driver. Again, at some point the unit would separate itself from the vehicle; likely within 5-9 seconds of activation.

Finally, regarding purported speed : the wheel bearings (and lubricant in those bearings) in any car could not have withstood the heat generated by tires rotating at 350 miles per hour. I will guess again that within 1 minute, the wheels would have stopped rotating. At which point, if they hadn't already disintegrated from the heat of rotating at 350 mph, the tires would disintegrate on one surface (the one in contact with the road - my guess is this would happen within 1-3 seconds of the wheels ceasing to rotate). Stepping on the breaks at this point would be futile as the wheels are no longer moving. The breaks would not wear at all. It would be like steeping on the breaks while parked.

Nonetheless, this is still creates a fascinating image. Picturing what would have happened if it were actually true is almost more hysterical.

Anyway, this is just my interpretation.

March '97

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