Tag Archives: Peltzman effect

Interesting Science Facts You May Or May Not Know – 02/02/2015

Commercial Space Flight

It is well known that Sir Richard Branson has founded Virgin Galactic to eventually take civilians into space. At first, the space-tourists will go up and come back down again to the same port, simply going to see the view from space first-hand. But eventually, space flights will go from point A to point B. What are the advantages of this, besides the view?

Virgin Galactic's Space Ship Two
Virgin Galactic’s Space Ship Two

Currently, a normal flight from New York to Australia takes 21 hours in an airplane, which usually travel at around 500 mph. But when Branson’s space-plane achieves orbit, outside the Earth’s atmosphere, like the International Space Station, it will be traveling at around 17,500 mph, 35 times faster than the aforementioned airplane. Do a little math, and a 21 hour flight, 35 times faster, is reduced to 36 minutes.

Plus, there’s generally much less fuel used as well, which will make environmentalists happy. Whereas a plane will have to maintain 500 mph using its engines the entire journey, once the space ship is in orbit, it will coast the whole way until the moment the pilots slow it down and let gravity return it to Earth.

Safer isn’t always Safer

In 1975, professor Sam Peltzman outlined a theory referred to as the Peltzman effect. What it states is that when you increase the safety of something, people will engage in riskier behavior that will potentially offset any gains in safety, or even be more unsafe.

He based his theory on traffic, but it is a simple human behavioral analysis. It is the reason many people, including former Steelers great, Hines Ward, are championing the idea that if you got rid of helmets in football, there would be less concussions, not more. This is buoyed by the fact that rugby, a sport nearly identical to American football, has far fewer head traumas.

Imagine, I were to ask you to walk a tight rope between two buildings, assuming you’re not part of the Wallenda clan, you’d probably say no. But put an airbag or safety net underneath the tightrope, and now you’re far more likely to do it.

Nick Wallenda
Nick Wallenda

If you had initially said no, you were in no danger whatsoever, you said no after all. But if you walk across with the safety net, you could still fall and hurt yourself if the net failed, or you didn’t land right, thus increasing your danger.

 Navy Rail Guns

Ever hold two magnets together, and have them repel away from each other? That’s the science behind the Navy’s latest weapon, a rail gun. Using electromagnets, the guns repel the projectile out of the barrel at a staggering 4,500 mph, or 6 times the speed of sound. Why so fast?

This has to do with kinetic energy, which is calculated as 0.5 x mv². M = mass, V = velocity. So the faster something is traveling, the more energy it will impart on something when it hits it.

Think about it this way, would you rather get hit by a 10-ton truck moving 10 mph, or a 1 ton car doing 100 mph? Assuming you would choose the item that is ten times faster, not heavier, why? The fact that the velocity in the equation is squared tells you velocity is significantly more important, something you instinctively already knew.

Current Navy warship guns, the 5″ 62 caliber Mark 45 mod 4 delivers about 18 megajoules of muzzle energy, whereas the new rail guns can deliver 32 megajoules.

Notice the fire coming off the projectile in the video, that’s not because explosives or gun powder were used to fire it, that’s because wind resistance is burning it up, just like when space ships return to Earth and generate heat, or how comets become fireballs when they enter the Earth’s atmosphere.

Not only is this more destructive power, but the rail gun’s projectiles are inert, with no explosives in them, they’re just a metal projectile. So sitting on the ship waiting to be shot, there’s no chance they might accidentally get detonated, making it safer for the ship’s crew to handle them.

They do significantly more damage because of their velocity, so they don’t need to be explosive.

Hybrid Vehicle Technology

Thinking of buying a hybrid vehicle? There are some things to consider. Hybrids effectively have two engines, a gas engine, and an electric one. Why both? Because electric engines don’t have a very good range at the moment, and where you can fill your gas tank in about five minutes, an electric car takes overnight to charge.

But here’s the problem; since hybrid’s have two engines, They are much heavier than a normal car, and therefore require more energy to lug around the added weight of the electric motor? So how do they make it up? Regenerative braking.

When you apply your brakes on a normal car, two pads in a fixed position, clamp down on a spinning rotor inside your wheel, not that different from the hand brake on your bicycle. What this does from a physics perspective is converts kinetic energy into heat energy through friction. Your brake rotors will sometimes get glowing red if used often and hard. See this Corvette C6.R race car below, it’s brake rotors are glowing from the massive heat created, and this is normal.

Corvette C6.R
Corvette C6.R

This heat is a large amount of energy being wasted. Think of it this way, a 3,000 lbs. car is barreling down on you at 60 mph, and you have to stop it with your bare hands, how much energy do you think you’d need to do so?

Since brakes convert this energy into heat, they’re basically just wasting that energy, venting the heat into the atmosphere around them. But hybrids put electric generators on the driveline of the car so that when you apply the brakes, instead of pads and rotors converting kinetic energy into heat, the electric motor is essentially placed into reverse and the electric motor charges the batteries as it slows the car.

What does this mean to you, a potential buyer? If your driving mainly consists of highway driving, and you don’t do much braking, such as you might do if you do mostly in town driving, a hybrid vehicle is a very bad idea for you, since you won’t be taking advantage of what makes hybrids more efficient. You’d be better off with something like a Volkswagen clean diesel.

The Insurance Mandate. What’s your paradigm?

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

I had a debate with a friend of mine about the insurance mandate. He professes to be a limited government guy that supported Reagan, yet he recently voted Democrat twice, is a proud union employee of the state, and supports socialized medicine. You know—a traitor. (I am kidding; he is a friend, just a misguided one from where I sit.) Needless to say, he and I don’t agree on much these days politically.

My work history includes years in the insurance business, so I have to say that the argument for the health insurance mandate makes mathematical sense—sort of. We pay at an early age into insurance we will rarely use while we’re young and healthy, so that later in life when we start to need it more, that money is there waiting for us. Think of it as health savings and insurance.health_benes_claim_form1[1]

By doing so, we increase the insurance company’s revenue now—and thus reduce their losses which results in lower rates for everyone later. In an odd sort of way, it’s the same as the argument that lowering taxes increases revenue because the economy grows; it’s just that the cause and effect are swapped.

But the argument is only logical because it is based on an assumption I cannot agree with—the assumption that everyone has a right to health care. If we as a country feel that people have a basic right to health care, then the insurance mandate is necessary and mathematically sound.

I however, am quite annoyed with the idea that health care is a substance like air and water, that we should all have access to. I instead know that health care is a service provided by people who spent a lot of time and money in order to earn a living. And, you don’t have a right to that service if you cannot pay for it.

The United States Constitution

Our Constitution gives you the right to life, not the right to health care. A right to the life that genetics, nature, and dumb luck provides you.

Health care is a service that can extend that life, provided by professionals that offer that service, in order to earn a living. If you want a better and longer life, you have to pay them for it. Otherwise, when your time comes, that’s your time to go. It may seem heartless, but the circle of life is that all living things feed off of other living things and then eventually die themselves. Nothing gets out alive.

Let’s imagine a scenario where lives aren’t on the line for a minute. Your car breaks down, and you really need your car to get to work. So you take it to the mechanic. They advise you that you need a $500 repair, but you don’t have that kind of cash. Do you get to demand they help you and you’ll pay them later if you can?Auto_Repair-generic[1]

Well, doctors are ultimately mechanics for humans. If they are willing to help for free, for a lesser fee than they’d charge medicare (Which is currently prohibited by law, believe it or not), or for a promise to pay in the future, then that’s great. Otherwise, the person needing care needs to find another doctor or accept the consequences of the life they chose and/or the bad fortune that befell them.

We have been taught that caring for others is just the right thing to do, and I agree, entirely. But, I don’t believe that doctors are heartless people who would never help anyone, and history shows this to be true. While some patient-dumping was common practice, it certainly wasn’t a unilateral action. Remember that many of them joined that profession because they love helping people.

But all free people should have the right to choose who we wish to help, who we can afford to help, and who doesn’t deserve our help. And the chronic meth head, alcoholic, and serial moocher are not on my list of acceptable benefactors.drug-overdose[1]

Socialized medicine proponents often paint the picture that everyone who needs health care and can’t afford it are victims of society. But this is a false argument. Often, society is a victim of them, since we’re forced to pay for their care through higher prices, benefit fraud, and tax subsidies.

I think we all know people who can’t keep a good job because they drink too much, abuse their body, voluntarily miss work, don’t apply to begin with, and aren’t motivated to be successful—the type of people who work the hardest at how to afford work.

So then the abuse on their body catches up with them, and because they don’t have a job, they don’t have insurance. Now they need care because of their life choices, and they can’t afford that help. They are responsible for the life they’ve led, and they either need to find a way out of their troubles, or they will die as a martyred good example for others to not to be like them. Yet, under our current system, the rest of us become financially liable for them.

I’ve had a few people like this in my life because I don’t always hang out in the ritziest circles. I like some of these people dearly, but I also know that they are their own worst enemy, and the idea that society should take care of them is nonsense.

There is a phenomenon called the Peltzman Effect which says that the more safety you provide someone, the more risky behavior they will engage in. If you’ve seen someone driving like an idiot in the snow because they have a 4wd, you’ve seen the Peltzman Effect in action. If we want everyone to be self sufficient, we need to stop allowing people to so easily be dependent on others.

I believe that the only way to truly reduce health care expenses is to take away that safety net of guaranteed health care, take away government regulations that hinder competition, give doctors rights to work for a reduced rate if they choose to help the poor, introduce loser pays legislation and other legal reforms, and generally get the government out of the way of the health and insurance industry, letting the free market do what it does best; drive down costs.