Monday, September 09, 2013

Cow Tipping - It's A Myth!

What better way to break up the monotony of important advances in elementary particles, of topological insulators, of neutrino physics, etc. then to talk about the myth of cow-tipping! This article in Modern Farmer collects up-to-date info on why this is a myth, including a physics calculation on what it would take to do such a thing, which would make it even more unlikely.

But say our hypothetical cow tippers got lucky enough to get close to a cow at night. There’s still the matter of the brute force needed to get the cow over. In 2005, University of British Columbia student Tracy Boechler and doctor of zoology Margo Lillie ran the numbers on cow tipping. Their findings? There’s no way one person could tip a cow. Two people? Maybe — but not in real world conditions.

“Two could do it in theory,” says Dr. Lillie. “But it’s not going to be easy, and as soon as the cow responds by bracing herself or leaning into you — which she will do — it will be even harder.” Cows, after all, stand on four legs and will quickly shift their weight to a wider, more stable stance if pushed against. And Lillie and Boechler’s calculations are based on an unmoving cow in equilibrium in which slow, steady force could be applied without pushback — an optimum (and unrealistic) state for cow tipping. Pull out your high-school text book and look up Newton’s Second Law: Force equals mass times acceleration. A cow has a lot of mass, and you’ll want to move that mass quite quickly, before the cow can react. Which means you’ll need to generate a lot more force. Per her calculations, that would require at least five, and probably more like six pushers. “It just makes the physics of it all, in my opinion, impossible,” says Dr. Lillie.

There ya go, kids! Don't try this at home, or more accurately, at a farm near you!


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