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An essay of the physics of a car crashing, in terms of mechanics, kinematics and energy transfer.

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Rahil has just come out of a party with his best friend Ali. Excited, they both

get into Rahils car. Straight away Rahil jams his key into the ignition of his

soft-top Lamborghini Gallardo, and starts it. Once the car is started, Rahil

leaves the parking area, and starts driving immediately, and only Ali who is

sitting beside Rahil in the front passenger seat buckles his seatbelt. Little did

he know, he was going to regret it very, very soon. Anyway, Rahil then steps

abruptly on the accelerator, and the car begins to move, accelerating rapidly

from 0-120 km/h (33.33 m/s) in just 4.25 seconds at 7.84 m/s2. Then, seeing

as the road ahead is apparently empty he sets the car on cruise control once

it reaches 120 km/h. Suddenly, as they both friends laughing madly out of

euphoria, *CRASH* goes the beautiful 1485 kg Lambo, as it hits the concrete

wall head-on. Now that we have its mass, we can imply that the moving cars

KE = 0.5mv2 = 0.5 x 1485 x (120/3.6)2 = 742.5 x 1111.1 825 000 J. This is an

inelastic collision, wherein most of the kinetic energy is transferred into the

wall as thermal energy, while some is wasted as sound energy. We can also

imply that its momentum, which is rate of change of inertia is p = mv = 1485

x (120/3.6) = 49 500 kg m/s. Now, as the car crashes into the wall, the

momentum (p = mv) changes as the car almost immediately decelerates to 0,

and change in momentum (mv) is known as impulse. Furthermore, according

to Newtons 2nd Law, F = ma. We would use this, but the force in question is

average impact force and not the net force, hence we use the equation Favg =

0.5mv2/d. For this we need to know the cars crumple zone which = its

stopping distance (d), which seems to be 2 feet for this particular Lambo. Thus

to simplify, I will present the answer in standard American units (as well as N

for reference. Moving on, Favg = 0.5mv2/d = 608506.92 ft lbs/2 ft = 2 706

638.78 N = 304 253.46 lbs = 304.25 (short) tons. In connection with this,

Newtons 3rd Law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

In this case, the force the car exerts on the wall equals the force the wall

exerts back onto the car. That is what allowed the kinetic energy that

transferred into the wall as thermal energy to push BACK onto the car. Since

the wall has a much greater inertia, according to Newtons 1st Law, it remains

unmoved. The Lambo takes 2 seconds to stop crumpling completely. That

means in real time, it only experiences half the force it would have

experienced per second as its impulse gets distributed that way, i.e. lesser

force over greater time. That is to say, the impulse required to stop the car is

the same and that is what acts upon the car, but the car doesnt feel all of it

due to this distribution.

Finally, in terms of the passengers of the car, one is more fortunate than the

other. Inertia is the quality of resisting change in motion, and while the car

stopped moving when it hit the wall, both passengers continued to move at

120 km/h (33.33 m/s) Rahil, who did not have his seatbelt on, flew forward

much quicker than Ali, who was slowed down by the seatbelt as well as the

airbags which had helped slow down Rahil as well. This works using the same

principle as the crumple zone for the car; the airbags and seatbelt both work

to spread the force applied and impulse experienced on the passenger over

more time so as to lessen the actual force experienced by him, meaning that

Written by: Ali Adnaan Raza

Year 12/DP 1, GEMS Wellington Academy Silicon Oasis

With Special Thanks to: Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, and Rahil (for being

a good sport XD)

Ali was much less likely to get injured than Rahil. However, in Rahils case his

impact was only cushioned by the airbag, and according to the rule of how

impulse distribution works, Rahil experienced more of the force of impact than

Ali did, thereby confirming that he was more likely to get injured. As expected,

thats just what happened; Ali didnt get injured much except for some minor

lacerations by the shattered glass and a temporary backache due to his

sudden movement, while Rahil, lucky to be alive at all, smashed his head

against the windshield as it smashed, and fell unconscious immediately. When

he awoke, not only did he not remember anything, but also permanently

entered the mental state of an infant. In conclusion, having explained the

effect on both the car and its passengers, that is the physics of a car crash.

Year 12/DP 1, GEMS Wellington Academy Silicon Oasis

With Special Thanks to: Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, and Rahil (for being

a good sport XD)

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