0582: "Brakes"

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nirvana_grace
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Ahhh, you're done-for!
Sure, there are always unintended consequences -- but I can't do nothin' about 'em.

mturyn
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Could you make the noise for us?
--Aiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeee!
Sounds like you're falling off a cliff. [Laughter]

(Non-listeners: Tom and Ray, the hosts, often request callers to imitate the noise their car is making in its distress, frequently with funny results.)

We once won membership in a group lunch with them at Harvard Square's 'Tasty' across from the offices of their (real) corporation, Dewey, Cheetham & Howe; fun lunch, insanely bad food... The Tastee is missed not for its food (except, surely for a few fans) but for being emblematic of the Old Harvard Square Back Before Mallifiication...it outlasted the Wursthaus (which makes an appearance in James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia), but not the Greenhouse, which closed about two years back----nowhere to get gigantic slices of mediocre cake in Harvard Square now.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

'I just drove my car off a cliff!''
I was struck that this was <140 chars ('Hello, and welcome to [imath]\chi\alpha\rho[/imath] Talk...."). Are there any purported Last Tweets out there?---a superficial search reveals entries for 'last tweet' and 'death tweet', but I don't think they mean 'last words expressed as a tweet' there.

It sure would have cramped Dutch Schultz' style....

theyranos
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

The sad thing is that actually having called Car Talk kinda ruined the joke for me, since I know that Randall would've spent his 6.5 seconds listening to the first 1/40th of Tom and Ray's ridiculous outgoing voicemail message. No one actually calls Car Talk, they call you if your voicemail is funny enough.

OTOH, it'd be hilarious if you got the callback mid-fall.
Had enough arguing about xkcd? Perhaps I can refer you to a crappy comic of my own.

BioTube
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

For those too lazy to do the calculation themselves, the following Scheme program will calculate the height of the cliff:

Code: Select all

(define g 32)(define t 6.5)(display (number->string (* (* g .5) (* t t))))(newline)
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

I also feel "sputtering" should be added to "gasping, hacking laughter."
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pyrodude150
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

extra credit (redeemable for kudos, which are redeemable for props, which are redeemable for nothing) if someone can take scale measurments of the cars size, cliff, tree size (correct for species and habitability around cliffs one might find near boston, MA) and drop size and figure out how long it would actually be, contrary to 6.5 seconds.

Assume car speed at 60 mph, and decelleration as it breaks through the fence, as well as gravity.
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EYanyo
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

"I bet a funny thing about driving a car off a cliff is, while you're in midair, you still hit the brakes. Hey, better try the emergency brake."

-Jack Handey

I immediately thought of this when I saw this comic.

jeszjesz
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

ShadowLurker wrote:this comic would have been much better without the words at the top.

For all cases where "much better" = "unintelligible"
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Iluvatar
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

pyrodude150 wrote:extra credit (redeemable for kudos, which are redeemable for props, which are redeemable for nothing) if someone can take scale measurments of the cars size, cliff, tree size (correct for species and habitability around cliffs one might find near boston, MA) and drop size and figure out how long it would actually be, contrary to 6.5 seconds.

Assume car speed at 60 mph, and decelleration as it breaks through the fence, as well as gravity.

A few considerations:
-The car size and the tree size seem pretty inconsistent, you'd have to chose one or the other to go by.
-What would the initial speed of the car have to do with anything (assuming it's sufficient to clear the early ledges and is purely horizontal)?
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Mr. Coffee
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Drat, someone already calculated the height of the car. Though it still rests on the assumptions the the 'funniest seconds' began and ended when the fall did. (assuming he survived)

LTK
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

The question is, who made it first? Munroe or Davies?

t1357
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Here's what I think of when I see a "car over the cliff" drawing:
Attachments
xkcd_brakes.jpg (50.35 KiB) Viewed 7121 times

Katieesq
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Kaelin wrote:I'm more of a "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!" listener, but it's another well-played comic. The alt-text sentence doesn't read so smoothly, though.

Same. Also on Saturdays, KPBS produces a show called "A Way With Words," which discusses etymology, grammar, American slang, and the like. Toss in a little Prarie Home Companion and you've got yourself a nice, white, liberal weekend.
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Jourdy289
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Katieesq wrote:
Kaelin wrote:I'm more of a "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!" listener, but it's another well-played comic. The alt-text sentence doesn't read so smoothly, though.

Same. Also on Saturdays, KPBS produces a show called "A Way With Words," which discusses etymology, grammar, American slang, and the like. Toss in a little Prarie Home Companion and you've got yourself a nice, white, liberal weekend.

I only listened to PHC once but I loved it! My mom thought I was weird thouugh
I liked their Ruth Harrison - Reference Librarian one, it led me to a new joke : you poke it?

I also listen to Pet Fish talk, similar to Car Talk, just with Tom and Nevin Bailey, two brothers.

Great work Randy!
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Exüberance
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

t1357 wrote:Here's what I think of when I see a "car over the cliff" drawing:

Epic win.

On my one Astronomy 101 final exam, there was a question about a computer simulating a galaxy collision, and I didn't know what the answer was, so I came up with the best answer I could think of, then drew a little comic to the side with 3 scientists staring at a computer: "Windows Vista has detected that sim.exe is attempting to smash 2 galaxies together. To help protect your computer this operation has been blocked.... SEGMENTATION FAULT". I wouldn't get any marks for it but I had some extra time and I might as well try to make the marker laugh. (I also did another minicomic on a question about Astrobiology. "Just answer the question, it's not rocket surgery." "Yeah, i- wait, what?". (It's a Corner Gas reference ))

CrispyCrew
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Iluvatar wrote:

Alright, signed up just for this thread. Keep in mind that I'm not a physicist, merely an accountant. But I'm curious about the "height of the cliff" issue. Since we don't have any reference points beyond the proportions of the car (anything can be in the foreground or background, the cliff could be much higher or much lower, et cetera), I don't think the above image is the best way to calculate the height of the cliff.

To do so, I think you'd have to assume that the car is at least a currently-manufactured model (no sense calling Car Talk over a car they can't know anything about), so you have a limited range of proportions. From there, you would have to calculate how far down the front of the car has fallen relative to the back of the car (gravity would pull it down first). I think a reasonable assumption to make is that the car departed the road either level or close to it - maximum grades for roads is something on the order of 6%, and the "debris" following the car is level with the rear rather than the nose, indicating that it followed the car and began falling at the same time that the rear of the car did.

So, once you calculate how far the nose has fallen relative to the tail, you can calculate time, and then calculate the total distance fallen.

Just a thought.

Amora
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Randall listens (or is at least aware of) Car Talk? That's great news.

I can see it now...
"Is that Randall with an "A" or with an "E"?
Last edited by Amora on Tue May 12, 2009 2:45 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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nihil
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

I don' think t=0 is when the car starts falling, since he'd probably not have time to tune. So, maybe t=0 when driver notices the absence of the breaking system, then we have some seconds to the cliff, and then the fall.

Internetmeme
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

My only thoughts are:

The Final episode of Tool Time:
On this episode of Tool Time, our hosts are going to show you how to fix a brake system if it goes out while traveling near a cliff. Because we couldn't find a stuntman and they had to do the stunt, this will be the last episode.
Spoiler:

Iluvatar
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

CrispyCrew wrote:
Alright, signed up just for this thread. Keep in mind that I'm not a physicist, merely an accountant. But I'm curious about the "height of the cliff" issue. Since we don't have any reference points beyond the proportions of the car (anything can be in the foreground or background, the cliff could be much higher or much lower, et cetera), I don't think the above image is the best way to calculate the height of the cliff.

To do so, I think you'd have to assume that the car is at least a currently-manufactured model (no sense calling Car Talk over a car they can't know anything about), so you have a limited range of proportions. From there, you would have to calculate how far down the front of the car has fallen relative to the back of the car (gravity would pull it down first). I think a reasonable assumption to make is that the car departed the road either level or close to it - maximum grades for roads is something on the order of 6%, and the "debris" following the car is level with the rear rather than the nose, indicating that it followed the car and began falling at the same time that the rear of the car did.

So, once you calculate how far the nose has fallen relative to the tail, you can calculate time, and then calculate the total distance fallen.

Just a thought.

Not sure if you knew this (if you did, forgive me), but the original height of the cliff was determined by the time it took to fall (6.5 seconds). Since (ignoring air resistance), gravity accelerates all things equally, we can determine that an object falling for 6.5 seconds will travel about 207 meters. What my diagram was doing was determining the height of the car based on the known height of the cliff (not vice-versa, as I think you're positing).

Of course, as was mentioned earlier, the 207 calculation assumes that the 6.5s starts exactly when the car leaves the cliff and ends exactly when it hits the ground. If it actually starts at some point up the hill, we're out of luck. Using the car angle and the distance from the top to determine the total height of the cliff is an interesting tactic, but we don't know much about the angle at which the car left the cliff. Roads might max out at 6 degree incline, but there's inevitably some dirt between the pavement and the ledge which could be 1 degree or 60. Further, the weight distribution of cars seems like it'd vary greatly in cars across all makes and models, not to mention cargo load. It seems like the uncertainty of this method would be pretty high after taking into account these factors.

Then again, I am not a physicist either, so I may yet be missing a good way to determine height outside of going off of 6.5s. Maybe a botanist could try the suggestion earlier of determining probable tree height with some degree of accuracy?
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guyy
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Iluvatar wrote:

Maybe that thing in the lower right isn't the base of the cliff, and the actual bottom is about 10 times farther down? Given the car's current position, if it fell off that thing in the upper left and doesn't lose much X velocity, it's pretty believable it could miss that visible edge and fall past it for a while. 6.5 seconds does seem awfully long, in any case.

Or maybe he's on a small moon that coincidentally has things that look like pine trees.

IW4
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

"And even though brakes fail and guard rails uproot themselves in mutual protest whenever they hear us say it, this is NPR: National Public Radio."

----

"And on this episode of Stump the Chumps, we have Randall from Somerville, Mass; who thought he had a problem with his brakes."

<obligatory flashback>
</>

"So, Randall, are you there? ...Randall?"

<cheery win music, pierced by hacking, and the occasional snort from Ray>
Last edited by IW4 on Tue May 12, 2009 2:01 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

rubber314chicken
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Iluvatar wrote:

who says that is the top or bottom of the cliff?

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danix
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

AcidPops wrote:Finally, a joke I don't need someone to explain to me I love Car Talk...and I don't even have a car!
Hehe ... this is one of those few I didn't get until after reading the forums...

Dr._Orion
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Man, I love listening to Car Talk (I don't own a car either).

To see Car Talk, Praire Home Companion, and Wait, Wait... Don't tell me all together on this website brings a smile to my face.

On a side not: while Wheels with Ed Wallace isn't as funny as Car Talk, his Backside of American History segment is really interesting.

Katieesq
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Oh me yarm you guys. We totally forgot someone:

<3
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alexf42
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

It's not really correct to say that the cliff is 207 feet high. That number does not take into account air resistance. Since it would be almost impossible to calculate exactly, which would require taking into account the surface area of the car, which changes as the car rotates and depends on the model, it would be much simpler to just use few enough significant figures. 207 seems too specific, but I think 210 should be good enough. The cliff is probably at least 200 feet.

JC1
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

For all you "it's a popular radio show" and the "I don't get the connection" folks:
Consider the "type" prson that listen to NPR/PBS a Lot -
THEN consider that "Car Talk" is THE Most Popular show on NPR, my local PBS affiliate, and likely most -- making it, potentially, The Most Popular Show on Broadcast Radio. (not just "A popular radio show")
Consider that Tom and Ray are both M.I.T. grads, Tom in Chem Eng -and Tom holds a Ph.D. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Magliozzi
Consider that Somerville is a pretty rough area -

I suggest all you XKCDers tune-in.
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Doodle77
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

alexf42 wrote:It's not really correct to say that the cliff is 207 feet high. That number does not take into account air resistance. Since it would be almost impossible to calculate exactly, which would require taking into account the surface area of the car, which changes as the car rotates and depends on the model, it would be much simpler to just use few enough significant figures. 207 seems too specific, but I think 210 should be good enough. The cliff is probably at least 200 feet.

Those calculations were in meters, not feet.

sje46
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

JC1 wrote:For all you "it's a popular radio show" and the "I don't get the connection" folks:
Consider the "type" prson that listen to NPR/PBS a Lot -
THEN consider that "Car Talk" is THE Most Popular show on NPR, my local PBS affiliate, and likely most -- making it, potentially, The Most Popular Show on Broadcast Radio. (not just "A popular radio show")
Consider that Tom and Ray are both M.I.T. grads, Tom in Chem Eng -and Tom holds a Ph.D. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Magliozzi
Consider that Somerville is a pretty rough area -

I suggest all you XKCDers tune-in.

I'd probably listen to NPR a lot if I actually drove.
What do you mean it's a rough area? As in, crime?
I did find out yesterday that it is the densest municipality in New England.
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Iluvatar
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

guyy wrote:Maybe that thing in the lower right isn't the base of the cliff, and the actual bottom is about 10 times farther down? Given the car's current position, if it fell off that thing in the upper left and doesn't lose much X velocity, it's pretty believable it could miss that visible edge and fall past it for a while. 6.5 seconds does seem awfully long, in any case.

Or maybe he's on a small moon that coincidentally has things that look like pine trees.

Regarding the top of the cliff, look at the debris behind the car. It appears to be relatively horizontal with the car, leading me to suspect strongly that the car just left either the highest visible point or the one immediately below it. While it's not outside the realm of possibility that it fell with the car, it is both unlikely and inconvenient (ie, we can't determine anything if we assume the cliff could extend 10 times further outside our field of view).

Regarding the bottom of the cliff, there's little evidence either way regarding whether that's a true bottom. However, this is a comic– it seems to me that if Randall had intended the cliff to extend an unknown distance above or below the panel, he would have made this clear (as comic artists are wont to do) by having something approaching a straight cliff at the side of the screen. Given that we see something that looks very much like a top, that we see something that looks very much like a bottom, and that comic artists have the general goal of conveying a scenario, it seems fair to assume that the most obvious image is the case (Randall's Razor, we'll call it. ).

As for the moon theory, I suppose it's possible. Anyone care to run the numbers on that?

alexf42 wrote:It's not really correct to say that the cliff is 207 feet high. That number does not take into account air resistance. Since it would be almost impossible to calculate exactly, which would require taking into account the surface area of the car, which changes as the car rotates and depends on the model, it would be much simpler to just use few enough significant figures. 207 seems too specific, but I think 210 should be good enough. The cliff is probably at least 200 feet.
I'm no physicist, but it seems like air resistance would be somewhat negligible at that mass, surface area and duration. Anyone know actual formulas for which we can plug in some guesstimates to at least see if the number is of a meaningful magnitude?
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rubber314chicken
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Doodle77 wrote:
alexf42 wrote:It's not really correct to say that the cliff is 207 feet high. That number does not take into account air resistance. Since it would be almost impossible to calculate exactly, which would require taking into account the surface area of the car, which changes as the car rotates and depends on the model, it would be much simpler to just use few enough significant figures. 207 seems too specific, but I think 210 should be good enough. The cliff is probably at least 200 feet.

Those calculations were in meters, not feet.

Yea dude, nerd up a tiny bit.

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PhatPhungus
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Alt wrote:It was the funniest 6.5 seconds of my life, although as usual like 80% of it was just Tom and Ray's gasping, hacking laughter.

You mean Click and Clack's gasping, hacking laughter.
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Troger64
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Iluvatar wrote:

10 internets!

guyy
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Iluvatar wrote:Regarding the top of the cliff, look at the debris behind the car. It appears to be relatively horizontal with the car, leading me to suspect strongly that the car just left either the highest visible point or the one immediately below it. While it's not outside the realm of possibility that it fell with the car, it is both unlikely and inconvenient (ie, we can't determine anything if we assume the cliff could extend 10 times further outside our field of view).

Regarding the bottom of the cliff, there's little evidence either way regarding whether that's a true bottom. However, this is a comic– it seems to me that if Randall had intended the cliff to extend an unknown distance above or below the panel, he would have made this clear (as comic artists are wont to do) by having something approaching a straight cliff at the side of the screen. Given that we see something that looks very much like a top, that we see something that looks very much like a bottom, and that comic artists have the general goal of conveying a scenario, it seems fair to assume that the most obvious image is the case (Randall's Razor, we'll call it. ).

Well, the highest visible point is what I meant; if it went off the point below that, it must have hit a serious bump because it's still a bit above the level of that cliff-edge. In the second case, it's going to fly even farther because its current Y-velocity is probably close to 0.

As for the second bit, I think an unseen cliff edge is a more likely error than the size of the car being off by about an order of magnitude. This is a comic, but it's a comic with lots of elaborate math and physics. Maybe it used to show an indefinite drop-off, but he cropped it out and didn't notice?

Now that I think about it, the moon idea won't work, because presumably there's no Car Talk on distant Earthlike moons...probably. Maybe his car is made of Styrofoam, or has a drag chute.

xainxodik
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

Heh, what kind of people listen to NPR I wonder?

I just listen to it to get a dose of optimism after being throttled by fox pessimism.

Sigh...

and car talk is friggin hilarious! That 16 year old kid calling in the other day about his parents not letting him buy his OWN car with his OWN money LOL

crater2150
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

rbrausse wrote:coincidence? I think not...

bunny comic - only a matter of time

bunny posted an explanation for that :)

syko_lozz
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

soooo enough of this physics (since when were cartoons drawn to scale anyway?!?!)

this comic reminds me of IT crowd where he emails the fire department. "Fire, exclamation mark..."

also reminds me of the other day when my husband sms'd me the following "how do u know when u need stitches and where is our first aid kit?"
which he did with his right hand while watching blood spurt from his left.
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pachinkoid
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

1. finally joined after reading for a while
2. really didn't get this for the longest time, "why would someone say that if their car went over a cliff?" exhibiting at least two misunderstandings
3. the tree line in the distance is clearly another mountain meaning that even though the car is 50ft tall this cannot be divined from the picture alone
4. this is way too parochial, even if the radio show in question is syndicated coat-to-coast, some of us live elsewhere
5. why is randall wearing water skis?
6. numbered points make everything better

SecondTalon
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Re: "Brakes" Discussion

PhatPhungus wrote:
Alt wrote:It was the funniest 6.5 seconds of my life, although as usual like 80% of it was just Tom and Ray's gasping, hacking laughter.

You mean Click and Clack's gasping, hacking laughter.
They.. have real names, you know.... names that have nothing to do with Click, Clack, or Tappet.

...

Did I just ruin Christmas again?
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