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Math at Top Speed: Breaking Myths in the Drag Racing Folklore

Thursday, November 20, 2003 - 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Smith 100
Richard Tapia (Rice University)
Throughout his life, either as participant, support individual, or involved spectator, the speaker has been involved in some aspect of drag racing. As such he has witnessed the birth and growth of many myths concerning dragster speed and acceleration. In this talk the speaker uses his mathematical training to identify rather elementary mathematical frameworks for the study of a particular popular belief and then applies mathematics to better understand the belief at hand. In this manner some myths are explained and validated, while others are destroyed. Included in these examples will be attempts to determine how fast dragsters are really going and what is the maximum acceleration achieved by today's dragsters? The speaker will explain why dragster acceleration is greater than the acceleration due to gravity, an age-old inconsistency. The first part of the talk will be a historical account of the development of the sport of drag racing and will include shots of various family members. A component of the presentation will be several lively videos used to illustrate points.