Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Physics of Tatiana

Okay, here goes. One more story about the tiger attack in San Francisco, but this time from a mathematical point of view. Researchers at Northeastern University have studied the physics of the attack to answer the question: What velocity do you need to launch a 350 pound object over a 12.5 foot barrier that is 33 feet away?

From the study:
"Using simple physics, we have shown a highly possible solution as to how the tiger was able to escape its enclosure. From our calculations it was shown that a tiger only needs a little over 26 miles per hour to cross the 33 ft moat and clear the 12.5 ft high wall. From the current data that is available, a tiger can attain a maximum speed of 35 miles per hour. Hence, the current dimensions of the enclosure are not enough to ensure that a tiger will not escape."
A good analysis of the researchers' findings is at Greg Laden's Blog. After discussing some problems he has with the findings, he concludes:
I have no problem believing that this is physically possible. This is for two reasons. One, I've seen some pretty amazing leaping in cats, including large cats, and I suspect the range of jumping capacities of the large cats is unmeasured but impressive. Two, it actually happened, so in my own naive way I assume it was possible.
Based on these calculations, it is obvious that the zoo enclosure must be higher. But the question remains: why did the tiger never try to escape before this event?


greg laden said...

Are you sure she has never done this before? Maybe this time she just screwed up and got caught.

Sue J said...

Well ... you're right. Maybe she got out all the time in the middle of the night. Guess we'll never know.

Mauigirl said...

Having seen housecats jump from the floor to the top of the refrigerator (or in one cat's case, upright piano) I have no doubt Tatiana could do this with no problem. But to your point, she had to have a reason, and I'm sure those guys were taunting her.

I kinda like the idea that she got out every night and wandered around and then got back in! ;-)

Sue J said...

It makes me think of The Life of Pi, where the tiger keeps coming back to the raft after spending all night on the island ....