Image Image

  Nostalgia ain't what it used to be

Sunday, 29 November, 2020

Newton and the helmet law

Date: 19 January, 1997

By: Chief

Imagees boys and girls, physics can be a blast. No, I don't mean co-ed physical education. . .although that is a very up lifting experience. What I'm talking about is the laws of physics. You know, gravity, motion and stuff like that. Yeah I know, thats the class you slept through during high school. Well guess what? High school is long gone and it's time to wake up and go back to school.

Now, what do the laws of physics have to do with ridding ourselves of these pesky helmet laws? The answer: everything. Physics is fact. We are not changing and cannot change that fact. An example of a physical fact is to get yourself a cup of coffee and drop the cup. Does the cup fall down, or does it fall up? It's a given.

There are numerous physical laws. However, we are going to stick to only two of them. Which ones? Glad you asked. Newton's second and third law of motion. Specifically:

Second law of motion (mass [m] times speed [v] equals force [f] or f=mv),


Third law of motion (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction).

The one subject motorcycle helmet safety nazis do not bring up (as in never) as in legislative hearings, Congressional testimony or in literature is physics. There is a damn good reason for this. Helmets increase the danger. It is a physical fact ... a given. If you wear a helmet and are involved in a wreck, the chances are improved that you will break your neck and are thus very dead. If you are dead, you don't cost the government so much money, hence you are not a social burden. Don't you just love how a bureaucrat thinks?

Ok, on to the specifics. Break out your calculator. We'll deal with Sir Isaac Newton's second law. Mass is weight (at a specific gravity [Earth]). Multiply weight by speed and you get force. Lets give your head a weight (mass) of 10. For speed, use 60. The formula now becomes 10 x 60 = f...or 10 x 60 = 600. Holy shit Batman! That is a lot of force. Now increase the weight (mass) by +3 or +5. Helmets, on average, weigh between 3 and 5.5 pounds. Keep the speed the same (60). The formula is now 13 (or 15) x 60 = f...or 13 x 60 = 780 and 15 x 60 = 900. Big difference huh? Add three pounds of weight and force of impact increases by 180. Add five pounds of weight and the force increases by a whopping 300.

The question now becomes how much force can YOUR neck withstand? Hmmm. Think about it. At 60 mph, flying free, the force of impact is 600. You put on a five pound lid and you have increased the force of impact by half. Yet these idiots whom insist we wear lids, continue to state; for the record, no less; that helmets are safe? And some of these same idiots are doctors.

That, in and of itself, will decrease the amount of force necessary to break a neck. In other words, if the body and head are not in line head is at 45 degrees to the body; force of impact is a constant; and as we all know, the neck is the weakest part of the body; the amount of applied force needed to severe the spinal column will be much less. That, my friends, is the reaction of Newton's third law of motion.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. What that means is the applied force (i.e., 600, 780 or 900) will be dissipated. How force is dissipated doesn't matter, but it will be dissipated. In a bike wreck, the applied force could very well be dissipated through you.

Don't believe me? Fine. Take a look at air bags. No...not your mother-in-law, the air bags in cars. Why were they installed? Motor vehicle engineers knew they could not over come Newton's second law of motion. So, they designed a system (air bags) to react to the applied force. They used Newton's third law of motion. The results speak for themselves. Dead kids, dead women, severely injured men, etc. Why? Simple...we cannot, no matter how hard we try, over come a physical fact. It is as simple as that.

Safety nazis would have you believe that helmets and air bags are the greatest thing since sliced bread. They damn sure convinced Congress and 24 state legislatures. Motor vehicle manufacturers must comply with federal motor vehicle safety standards so they are stuck. Now the absolutely horrid part of this whole affair are states which have helmet laws. These states require, insist and decree that children wear helmets. That is complete lunacy. A child's head is disproportionally larger (as in much bigger) than their neck. The amount of force needed to severe a child's spinal cord is a great deal less than that of an adult. Just ask the mother whose one-year old baby who was decapitated courtesy of an air bag up in Idaho. You might have heard about it...the story was covered by the major news networks.

If you have ever attended legislative hearings pertaining to a helmet law; amending a lid law or repealing the damn thing; those jerks who are in favor of lid law (also in opposition to repealing) are doctors, hospital administrators, highway safety directors, insurance companies and economists. The legislators are listening quite intently about how helmets save(?) lives. Well, unless Sir Isaac completely missed the mark, we just proved them dead wrong. You bring up the law of physics to the legislators and you have just boxed them in. Those boneheads have two and only two choices:

One, accept physics as fact;


Two, ignore fact.

You will know which it is by the way they vote. One thing is for certain, no one can climb over a fact. . .a given. Then go after the bastards. Put the legislators who voted against you, against fact, up on a web page. Show them to the world as the bigots and tyrants they are. Local radio talk programs are another good way to bring these snakes to bay. Never, but never give them a chance to rest and catch their breath. Run the tyrants into the ground.

[Ed note: The difference between mass and weight is mass is an inertial property. Weight, on the other hand is the force created when a mass is acted upon by a gravitational field. The weight of matter is a function of the strength of gravity, the mass of matter is constant. Additionally in this story I have spoken only of force — not energy.]

(Return to the top)