25 Aug 2008

A Classical Mechanics Question to Break Up the Monotony

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A quick puzzle before plunging back into the dreary financial news…

So I’m sitting in the left turn lane, the first car in line waiting on the turn signal. A school bus is turning left, coming from my right; i.e. it is making its turn in front of me. At first the driver is cutting it too hard, so that the bus (for a few moments) is literally heading right for me.

Question: If I really thought the driver wasn’t going to correct, should I have put my foot on the brake as hard as I could? (If so, should I also have applied the emergency brake?) I’m thinking yes, because then some of the bus’s kinetic energy would get transferred to my brake pads (as heat), meaning my car has to accelerate less, meaning the seat belt has to press against my chest with less force to get my overweight body moving at the same velocity as the drunk bus driver.

Does your answer depend on whether there is a vehicle behind me in the turn lane?

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