Justin Li

Smashing Cars


I'm kinda unhappy with the latest MythBusters episode, the one about two cars smashing into each other at 50 mph is equivalent to one car smashing into a wall at 50 mph.

The way they tested the myth on a small scale was by swinging two pendulums into each other, with each pendulum containing a lump of clay and an additional weight in the back. The second weight would squash the clay, and from the deformation the impact of the smash can be visualized. It's a pretty clever rig.

My problem, however, is not with the rig; it's with the interpretation of the myth. There are two ways in which the two crashes can be "equivalent": from the perspective of the car, which is what the MythBusters tested, and from the perspective of something in the middle. Since the original myth is about a compact car being squished between two semis, it would seem that this myth should be about the latter interpretation. And in that case, I believe the crashes are, in fact, equivalent.

As an educational show, I think MythBusters should have at least covered this other scenario, and shown how the "myth" is more of an interpretation issue.