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Scorpion Season 1 Episode 21: "Cliffhanger"



Let's talk about Ferraris. At the beginning of this episode Walter is given a Ferrari, which he immediately and excitedly points out can drive at speeds of at least 190 mph (some models can go as fast 214 mph). As one can imagine, this could turn out poorly. And turn out poorly it did. By the end of the episode and rage-filled Walter manages to send the vehicle- with him inside of course- over the side of a cliff. I will say, before I get into the physics of the crash, that the physics this time are actually pretty good (shockingly).

(the link should take you to the point in the video you need to see, if not skip to about 2:40)

Alright, so the cause of the crash was the car's inability to make the turn without sliding out, going at the speed it was going (FAST). Given the fact the Walter said it out loud at the beginning, one can assume that car is moving at 190 mph (someone that mad and that reckless isn't going out for a leisurely drive). There is also the tell tale noises of the brake being pressed hard, meaning that he is making sharp, fast turns around the corners of the road and he isn't slowing down much to do so. The braking force is essentially a frictional force, the kinetic friction created between the road and tires of a car when the tires are forced to stop moving. The turn is important when driving at speeds as ridiculously fast (for a car) as 190 mph. The quick change in direction aids the breaking force, creating more friction as the tires turn 90 degrees on the road to make the turn. Turning and braking was Walter's best shot, even though it failed him. The issue comes from the fact the probability of slipping out, where the tires lose their tread and the car slides out to side, is much greater when preforming braking turns. However, had Walter tried to stop the car without turning, he'd have nose-dived over the cliff. If his initial speed (V) was 190 mph than stopping distance (d), using the equation d= (V2)/(2ug) , the car would need about 1677 ft or 511 m to come to a stop. He had about 50 feet. So, he did the best he could given the situation, from a physical standpoint braking into the turn had much greater chance of stopping the car than just braking. Of course, what kind of genius takes a Ferrari up into the Hollywood Hills and drives 190 mph, in the first place?


So, there you have it, the basic reasoning behind Walter's actions as the car was crashing and why, ultimately, the car crashed like it did. Thanks for reading!


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