A while ago, I saw a picture on Facebook saying the following:
“My ideal man must:
-Be as swift as a coursing river.
-Have all the force of a great typhoon.
-Have all the strength of a raging fire.
-Be mysterious as the dark side of the moon.”
If you somehow haven’t heard of it, it’s a reference to this song.
I don’t have a training montage, but I do have something better. Math.
Like anyone else, my first reaction to seeing that image was, “If I can do this math well enough, I’ll be irresistible to women!” Actually it was the more straightforward “I wonder if that’s possible,” but I’ll go with the funnier revisionist version. So, the numbers:
1. Swift as a coursing river.
This, obviously, depends on the river. I don’t know much about ancient Chinese history, but from checking Wikipedia I think the most important river in China during the Han Dynasty was the Yellow River. Finding the speed of the river is a bit tricky, since hydrologists don’t seem to care much about that number. Apparently they’re more interested in numbers like amount of water per unit time, where all I care about is distance over time at the surface. But I managed to find a source saying that the Yellow River reaches current speeds of a respectable three meters per second.
If you don’t speak metric, that comes to six or seven miles per hour, or about a nine minute mile. That’s…actually not that hard.
Swift as a coursing river: CHECK.
2. Force of a great typhoon.
This one is easier to find information on. Wind load is calculated with the formula F=1/2*A*d*v^2*Cd. A is the area exposed to the wind. The bigger something is, the harder the wind pushes on it. This explains the sail, the windmill, and the toaster. d is the density of the air. If air were heavier, it would push harder, and if it were lighter, it would not push as hard. Cd is the drag coefficient. It depends solely on the shape of the thing. For a sphere it’s 0.47, for a shape like an airplane wing it can be as low as 0.04, for a flat plate it’s 1.17. This is based on how aerodynamic the object is. v is velocity, how fast the wind is blowing. Since it’s squared, this is where the numbers get big. So. The math. I’m going to work through this in metric because trust me you do not want to see units of square inches times miles per hour squared times slugs per cubic foot. Hey, want to hear a joke? The U.S. Customary system of units of measurement.
The density of air is usually more or less a constant. At sea level and reasonable temperatures, you can pretty much count on it being about 1.225 kg/m^3. That’s not very heavy, but during a typhoon there’s no shortage of air flying around all over the place, so it does add up.
Wind speed is the easy one. To be a typhoon, a storm has to have wind speeds of at least 33 m/s. If it’s below that, it is instead classified as “wimpy.” Wimpy is not good enough; we need it to be “great.” If it’s even bigger than we need it to be, it can also be a “severe typhoon” with wind speeds of 42 m/s. But let’s go the extra extra mile and give the unstoppable forces of nature the benefit of the doubt. Let’s upgrade it to a “super typhoon.” Yes, that is the actual Science name for it. It has speeds of at least 67 m/s. In fact, let’s round up to 70, making it equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane. We have to make this fair, don’t we?
Let’s say I am trying to engage in the archetypically manly activity of punching through a wall. You know, something that that’s almost always pointless, and I’m just doing it to show off. My opponent will be the super typhoon I mentioned.
I stuck a ruler up against my fist to estimate the area. Apparently, the front of my fist is something like eight centimeters by five centimeters. (I bet you always wanted to know that.) Since it’s not actually a rectangle, the real number will be smaller, but I’m going to go with this one anyway. See above at: “giving the unstoppable forces of nature as much of a chance as I can.”
Now I’ll plug in some numbers to find the force of the aforementioned great typhoon. Let’s see what I have to beat.The velocity is 70 m/s. Translated into more familiar units, that’s twice as fast as the speed you drive on a highway that says to drive 65 mph, but less than twice as fast as a raptor on a hoverboard. Since the thing being punched is a wall, the drag coefficient is 1.17. Walls are not very aerodynamic. The density of air is, like I said above, 1.225 kg/m^3. And the area being punched is about eight centimeters times five centimeters. Let’s do some multiplication. ½*(.08m)*(.05m)*(70 m/s)^2*(1.225 kg/m^3)*(1.17)=14.05 kg*m/s^2 =14.05 N
The Newton is a unit of force. One Newton is equal to the amount of force it takes to hold up a weight of about 0.225 pounds. So 14.05 N corresponds to a little over 3.147 pounds. Which is pretty close to a nice round number, but not close enough to make a joke about it.
I can do that much force easily. It’s not even hard. Picture something that weighs about three pounds, like a gallon of milk that’s between a quarter and a half full, or a human brain, and picture me punching it in an upwardly direction. It’s more than enough to counteract gravity. So clearly my punch involves more than 14.05 Newtons of force.
Force of a great typhoon: CHECK.
3. Strength of a raging fire.
This one is almost embarrassingly easy. There are a bunch of definitions of strength, but it almost doesn’t even matter which one I use because fire fails at all of them. There’s compressive strength (How much force something can take before it collapses; think of a pillar), tensile strength (how much force something can take before it snaps; think of a rope or a cable), etc, etc. For all of these, “fire” scores something like “darn near zero.” Fires suck at lifting things, is my point here.
Strength of a raging fire: CHECK.
4. Mysterious as the dark side of the moon.
Um, what? How am I supposed to measure that? Well, I’ll see what I can do. A mystery (not to be confused with a puzzle or an enigma) is usually used to mean when there is relevant unknown information. So, how much is unknown about me compared to the dark side of the moon? Virtually everything. I am not exactly a public figure, and even if I ever become so, the vast majority of everybody will still never have heard of me. But people have at least known about the existence of the dark side of the moon for a very long time, and that’s unlikely to change. It actually is a public figure, and a well-known and well-understood one at that. I’m not sure exactly why “mysterious” is presented as a good thing, but okay.
Mysterious as the dark side of the moon: CHECK.
So, there you have it. If you twist math’s arm the right way, or maybe even ask nicely, you can almost pick your own result. Either that or I’m literally as awesome as that song says I should be metaphorically. Take your pick.