Chicken Little was Right

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Published on: Feb. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 26, 2010

Get out of the way!

I once wrote about the dubious thrill of being trapped beneath a 10-pound Canada goose that was falling at 32 feet per second.

The 32-feet/second figure was a recollection from more than 40 years ago when mathematics and I locked in mortal combat. I admitted that my recollection of high school physics was hazy - as hazy as my concept of a balanced checkbook, but wouldn't you know it an engineer wrote to correct me.

"Your statement of objects falling at a speed of 32 feet per second is incorrect!" he thundered. Hey, I was just trying to get out of the way of the thing, not prove a theorem.

Anyway, the goose hit with the solid sound of a sack of concrete about a foot away from the head of the hunter next to me. We were in a goose pit and the pit had been dug by a backhoe apparently for Patrick Ewing, Bill Wennington, Mark Eaton or other NBA centers who top 7 feet. I needed a periscope to see out and help from above to get out.

When a dead goose decided to center the pit, like a missile attacking an Iraqi bunker, I not only couldn't hide, I couldn't even run. Where was I going to go? Given a few hours, I could have dug a shelter cave in the wall of the pit, but I only had 3.06 seconds (as we will shortly find out, thanks to my correspondent).

So, I huddled in the bunker, waiting for the next incoming round. Next time, Gen. Schwarzkopf, forget the smart bombs and shoot dead geese at 'em.

Said the engineer, "Free falling objects accelerate due to gravity (pay attention, class, and take notes - there'll be a quiz at the end) at 32 feet per second squared.

"Thus, the time it takes for a goose (neglecting wind resistance) to fall vertically to earth from 50 yards up would be determined by the following simplified equation: Distance=initial velocity x time + 1/2 x acceleration x time squared."

That may be a simplified equation to an engineer, but writers are math dumb. Anyone who expects a writer to understand mathematics more complicated than five times six equals 24

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