MEI’s Phil Chaffé does some Fast and Furious Problem solving

Posted: 18/03/2015

In a car chase scene in the soon to be released film Fast and Furious 7, the character Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel, finds himself behind the wheel of a powerful sports car (a  Lykan HyperSport) on about the 45th floor of the tallest of the five buildings in the Etihad Towers complex in Abu Dhabi. Toretto decides that he can ‘leap’ the car across the gap into the building opposite. This video shows what happens next.

Do you think Toretto could pull this stunt off if it were for real? The answer boils down to a fairly simple maths problem, and as it happens, MEI’s Phil Chaffé was recently teaching in Abu Dhabi. Phil was approached afterwards by a freelance journalist who challenged Phil to make the calculation, based on the following assumptions:

  1. The car is a Lykan HyperSport, which weighs 1,400kg. Let’s assume there is enough room in the building for it to reach 100km/h, which it can do in 2.8 seconds.
  2. The distance of the jump is about 50 metres.

How far horizontally would an object weighing 1400kg travel with an initial velocity of 100km/h, and how many metres would it drop vertically for every metre travelled horizontally? And what is the formula that would demonstrate this?

You can read the background to the stunt, see photographs and read Phil’s calculations in Jonathan Gornall’s resulting article in The National, Abu Dhabi Media's first English-language publication. There is an accompanying graphic describing the maths behind the problem.

Charlie Stripp, MEI’s Chief Executive said: “It's excellent to see MEI mentioned in this context, and a really nice application of A level mechanics and mathematical modelling.”

Mathematics teachers will be pleased to know that Phil is in the process of producing a set of problem-solving enrichment posters for the Further Mathematics Support Programme, including one about this problem. These will be available in  a few weeks’ time.

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