When watching the last season of Stranger Things it’s possible that you didn’t find yourself going “hey, I wonder if that nail-biting scene where Steve Harrington t-bones Billy Burn’s car was accurate in terms of the relative mass of those vehicles”.
But if so, we have some news: yes!
This analysis comes via Rhett Alain at OneZero, who wondered if a convertible Cadillac would actually be able to ram a racing Camaro and knock it out of the way of a bunch of trapped kids.
Sadly – or perhaps thankfully – he didn’t test this by actually finding a creepy deserted shopping mall car park and setting up a real life demolition derby, because that is a very good way for physicists to get very badly hurt.
Instead, he sat down and did the maths. And by “did the maths” I mean he literally did mathematics. Specifically, algebra.
In a nutshell, what plays out on screen is exactly what you’d expect given the circumstances.
“Using a Camaro speed of 27 meters per second and an angle of 30 degrees means the Cadillac needs to be traveling 15.6 meters per second or about 35 mph to knock it out of the way. Oh, that’s nice.”
The entire working is worth checking if you’re a fan of two-body collisions, but the main takeaway from this is that someone took what was unambiguously the least weird event from three seasons of Stranger Things and went “you know, interdimensional monsters aside, I’m not sure if a car would behave like that in a high-speed accident – I need to do some calculations!”
Like, it’s not even the weirdest thing that happens in that scene: then a giant monster looms over the building and pursues their fleeing vehicle. This entire analysis is based on a moment which would merit about six words in an episode description and yet he deployed mad physics for it.
And that, friends, is the sort of overthinking we like around here. Stranger Things car crashes rather than Upside Down metaphysics: that we can get behind.
Bless you, Rhett Alain. Bless you and bless your big, nerdy brain.