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Monday, December 11, 2006

Splat Calculator

This one's been around for a while, but it was new to me. The Splat Calculator was created by a climber named Dave Anderson, a professor of computer sciences at Carnegie Mellon. Or else he stole it from a 6th-grader named Parsingh who developed it for a science fair. Either way, it's a good Monday Morning Time Waster. Enter the height of a fall, and the Splat Calculator will tell you how soon you'll hit the ground and how fast you'll be going upon impact.

Thus, when I was dropped precisely 9 meters from just below the ceiling of the Boulder Rock Club, I fell for 1.3552618543578767 seconds and was traveling 47.8 kph (29.7 mph) when I hit the pads. Wind resistance and the effect of my flapping arms probably throw off Anderson's calculations, but you get the idea. I remember having enough time in the air to look down, notice a bunch of holds scattered on the floor below me for route-setting, and think, "Oh, #@%&#!, I'm going to break my ankle." Instead, I rolled backward and smacked my head against a milk crate full of holds, slicing open my scalp (8 stitches) and causing a bloody mess and some wide-eyed horror among the middle-school students taking a class on the other side of the gym.

It's amazing how much thinking you can get done in 1.3552618543578767 seconds, which makes it all the more horrifying to consider a fall from, say, the top of the Nose of El Cap. The distance from there to the pines below is about 850 meters. Plunge time = 13.17 seconds. It's actually going to be quite a lot longer than that, because Anderson's formula doesn't take into account the atmospheric drag that would slow an El Cap diver nearly to terminal velocity. Either way, it's plenty of time to contemplate what's about to happen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pretty interesting. So If I got this right I calculated that when I fell 300M down the Mooses Tooth I was traveling at about 171miles/hr and reached the bottom in 7.82 seconds. Sounds rather fast to me but I would have to take into account that this was not all time spent in the air since I was sliding down snow for much of the ride and only airborne for about 200ft. Maybe It was more around 80-100m/hr and it took me 10-15seconds. Scary to think about! How did you fall that far in the gym. Belayer mishap I take it?