(Actually was thinking of something that rhymes with mass-hattery, but we’re family friendly here – SJS)

So – season’s first snow and coming midday like it did only portends ill…We were not disappointed.

So much road, so much snow — so many idiots.

But one in particular merited special attention as he went whizzing by, on the right, at a good 20 mph over the speed everyone else was keeping. So hey, bubba, guess you slept through the high school physics class, eh? A quick refresher to ponder whilst you wait.

In the ditch…

Newton’s First Law:

I. Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

This means that in the absence of a non-zero net force, the center of mass of a body either remains at rest, or moves at a constant speed in a straight line. Like, oh, perhaps a Mustang doing 70 in snow that encounters a patch of ice. On a curve.

Newton’s Second Law:

II. The relationship between an object’s mass m, its acceleration a, and the applied force F is F = ma. Acceleration and force are vectors (as indicated by their symbols being displayed in slant bold font); in this law the direction of the force vector is the same as the direction of the acceleration vector.

This is the most powerful of Newton’s three Laws, because it allows quantitative calculations of dynamics: how do velocities change when forces are applied, i.e., according to Newton, a force causes only a change in velocity (an acceleration);

Newton’s Third Law:

III. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This law also carries a societal application as well. Sort of like the hand wave from that pick-up truck in front of me as it passed you, saluting your savvy wet/snowy/icy driving abilities, demonstrated so competently when you cut him off to jump into the lane. That is, before you demonstrated Doc Newton’s First Law.

Oh, and another useful item you may have slept/daydreamed through (or was presented on one of the days you just decided not to go to school): Friction. Let’s talk about friction. When you slide your book on the floor, it will come to stop because of the force of friction. Friction is the force that acts between two objects in contact because of action-reaction.  Objects like, perhaps, tire(rubber) and road, eh?

Force of friction can be calculated by the formula



* Ff is the force of friction in N,
* μ the coefficient of friction, and
* FN is the normal force in N.

The value of μ depends on the surface you are dealing with. The following table shows some examples of μ.

Surface Value of μ
rubber on dry asphalt ~1
rubber on wet asphalt 0.95
rubber on ice 0.005

For your edification, I sort of highlighted the relevant information for you. FYI – the more μ approaches 1 the better your stopping/roadholding.

To recap –

Snow: bad

Ice: bad

Speeding in snowy/icy road conditions: bad

Ditch: bad

Mustang in ditch: bad, very bad (especially since I am a Mustang kind of guy)

Bad driver, bad.

Doc Newton – undoubtedly laughing right about now (good).

Class over.



    My first car was a 12 year old 1967 Nightmist Blue Mustang Fastback, so I an biased towards Mustangs, but i smile every time I see one. The car was named after the plane, and from 1931 to 1948, North American Aviation was part of General Motors, so Ford’s most beloved product is named after a GM product.

  2. Newton and Darwin are sharing a laugh! The driver ended up where he belonged. Too bad about the Mustang though.

  3. Yeah, you could pretty much file this under “Light a candle or laugh at the darkness.” Really pains me to see Mustangs abused, but the upside is that karma was working yesterday — in spades it seemed. 🙂

  4. Rich

    Isn’t a ditch where Fords feel at home?
    The car was only homesick.

    You should try staying alive
    while riding motorcycles
    in the rain surrounded
    by Cali-for-nians for thrills.
    Seeing stuff like you did
    coming at you in your
    rear view mirror
    is, well, invigorating!

    Be safe out there!

  5. Andy (JADAA)

    Take one California native, Ensign, add in one 1973 BMW 2002 and a Wyoming Interstate during a snowstorm. Mix with unwittingness, speed and black ice. Hilarity, and multiple 360’s until intersection with Interstate ditch ensues.

  6. the rear wheel drive pretend SUVs were skidding around on the hill on Lorton Road. my frontwheel drive Prius… just motored along beautifully. OH – Hey, ya’ll who don’t know how to drive in snow – stomping on the brake does NOTHING but send you into walls, ditches, other people. After decades in Minnesota, watching the people around here trying to drive in the little bit of snow we had – made me laugh (after I got home safely, these people are DANGEROUS!)

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