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CSI - Theory Defies Gravity
November 10, 2004, Spike TV 8:30pm CSI Las Vegas.
In this episode, "Warick" and "Nick" arrive to a scene where a car apparently ran through a gardrail and down the hill where it crashed. The victim, alive, was taken to the hospital. "Warick" gives a senario where the victim was drunk and had a friend drive him back to the hotel. The driver got distracted and avoided an oncoming truck, went into the gardrail and teetered over the edge where it stopped front first. Then the driver seeing that he had survived and feared what he was about to face, ran off. Then he left the passenger buckled in the backseat and ran off. The loss of the driver's weight caused an imbalance, diving the nose of the car down where it rolled. "Nicks" theory was that the driver, being drunk, ran off the road into the rail and was teetering at the edge. A passerby saw what had happened and, finding the driver to be alive, stole the guy's watch and wallet and had him get in the backseat of the car and put his belt on. Then he ran off, leaving the car to go over. The victims true rendition was that after the accident, he went in the backseat and put his belt on when the car tilted over the cliff. None of these make sense. The car was in perfect balance when it stopped on the edge of the cliff. Center of Gravity was equal at the pivot point under the driver's seat location. Any weight transfer aft would have put more weight on the rear of center and less on the forward. The car would have never tilted forward to slide off the cliff.
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Rated 2.7/10 (11 ratings) Your opinion?
Special Requirements: Wait for the rerun of the episode
Contributed By: Anonymous on 11-12-2004 and Reviewed By: Larman
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madted writes:
Actually, it could have happened. If you look at the episode again, you will notice that when the car started to tilt forward, the guy was still in the driver's seat. He only moved to the back seat when the front of the car started to dip and he realized that the car was going to roll down the hill. Since the front of the car (where the heavy engine is located) was already dipping when the guy moved back, it's unlikely that the minimal change in the center of gravity of the car caused by the guy changing seats would have stopped the car from rolling. A person is relatively light compared to the engine and since the car already had some angular momentum as the front of it started to dip, there's no way he could have stopped the car from falling at that point. Remember, the engine was much farther forward from the point of balance than either of the seats. Think of it like this: If you put a heavy fridge on one end of a seesaw and you stand on the same side, but near the middle, then if you step over to the other side, the fridge isn't going to lift for two reasons: 1. The fridge is heavier than you. 2. You're closer the the center so you exert less torque on the seesaw. Warrick's theory was that the guy was driving and crashed into the guardrail as he was trying to avoid a person standing in the middle of the road. The person then walked up to the car, robbed the driver and told him to move to the backseat. He then lifted the back of the car to make it go over the edge. This is also possible, since a single person moving from the front seat to the back seat doesn't make a lot of difference in where the center of gravity of the car is. It probably wouldn't have been enough to make the car tilt backwards all of a sudden and the robber could have lifted the back of the car up to start it down the hill. (In your version the car fell by itself, but that is not how Warrick described it.) The only scenario that was unlikely was Nick's "phantom driver" theory, where the drunk guy was already in the back seat and another person was driving, who then got out after the car went through the guardrail and ran away. The car then fell by itself with the drunk guy sitting in the back. This is the least likely scenario, since after the driver got out there was less weight in the front of the car making it less likely to fall. However, the other two scenarios, Warrick's theory and what really happened could have both been possible.
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Kymaera writes:
I agree. I was thinking the same when I first saw the episode. I also got to thinking about weight tranfer on the way to the backseat because it would not have been easy for a grown man to get there without trouble. However, the character was a more "heavy set" fellow, so if the car were go off balance and head downhill, it would have done so with him in the front seat.
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