The science of faceplanting


A good thing to know about John Paul Stapp and the rocket sled/ejector seat testing at Edward’s Air Force Base in the 50’s is that this is the source of “Murphy’s Law”. There’s a great write up of this (shortened from a book by Nick T. Spark) on the Annals of Improbable Research website: The Fastest Man on Earth


I meant to say there, I use this in teaching about piezoresistive strain gauges and how to wire them up in Wheatstone bridges.

I wonder if force is the right quality to measure? The rate of change of acceleration - I swear I’m not making this up - is called jerk. A steady force might be a lot less harmful than a sudden one.

The trick is to throw yourself at the ground and miss.


Does anyone know what the checked markers they put on head and joints of dummies (and in this case Dr. Stapp) are called? I know they’re some sort of reference marker, but i’ve never been able to figure out if they have an official name…or at least what an associated engineer would call them.

I believe they’re called calibration or tracking markers.

A bit of Googling suggests “checkerboard target” or “checkerboard calibration target.” There may not be a single agreed-upon name.

That’s exactly what astronauts do, repeatedly.

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