Friday, December 15, 2006

Is Humanity Getting Dumber?

This sure makes one think so, what happened to common sense and basic kindergarten physics ...

“Imagine a plane is sitting on a massive conveyor belt, as wide and as long as a runway. The conveyor belt is designed to exactly match the speed of the wheels, moving in the opposite direction. Can the plane take off?"

Now, how many of you would NOT be able to answer this within, say, 30 seconds (I am being generous here)? Such people should please read Darwin and then try to remove their genes from the humanity gene pool in whatever manner desirable and ASAP!

One piece even called this "a brain-teaser" - yeah, maybe, if you lack the very organ mentioned above :-)


Anonymous said...

No, because all conveyor belts I've seen are in buildings, and buildings have ceilings, and the ceiling would prevent the plane from taking off.

Ken Buchanan said...

I'm I too generous if I prefer to think that most people just misunderstand the question? They read about the treadmill counter-balancing the wheel motion, and parse that in their heads as 'the plane is stationary'. The people arguing that the plane won't take off seem to be focusing on the lift principle, rather than on the question of whether the plane will move. I think if you framed it as a question of whether the plane will move forward at all, more people would come to the right answer.

A student I work with suggested a good way to explain it. Compare it to a plane on ice or water. On (theoretical) frictionless ice, the wheels wouldn't move at all, but most people will agree the plane will take off just fine. That seems to help people buy into the fact that wheel spin has no effect on the plane's velocity.

Dr Anton Chuvakin