Could This Really Happen to You?

popscicover2.jpgAs a contributing editor at Make Magazine, I know how important a good magazine cover is for single copy sales. A pretty girl is good for sales, and a guy dissecting a house plant is not so good.

This is my favorite cover of all time - it has it all. (But I just can't imagine how the scenario depicted could possibly take place. Maybe these people are models on a photo shoot gone bad, or maybe this is the top floor of a parking garage.)

Sure made me want to buy the mag. So I went on eBay and bought it.


  1. it that the end of the story?

    did the magazine arrived yet? how could this happen, and did the people survive?

    1. I created an account to say the same thing!

      Though I guess it depends on the dog’s inertia, which we can’t judge from a still frame.

  2. The magazine is available on Google Books. The point of the picture is that an accident at 30 m.p.h. is equivalent to driving off a nine-story building

  3. The article makes the point that one should drive defensively because hitting another car at 30 mph has the same effect as driving off a nine story building.

    1. As Fred Ochsenhirt pointed out, they are saying that a head on collision with another car at 30mph has the same impact speed as driving off a nine story building.

      What a great way to visualize this! Tell that to your kids when you’re teaching them to drive!

      I just had to check their math, and they are indeed correct if you assume each story is 13 feet high.

      Interestingly, if you use the top highway speed limit of 70mph instead, the impact is the same speed as driving off of a 50 story building! I don’t think your safety restraints are going to help much… Drive safe!

      1. As I understand it, this is claiming that if you’re travelling at 30, you’ve got the same energy/momentum as if you’d fallen 9 stories. Which means you’ve got enough momentum to throw the car UP nine stories. That seems very unlikely, but let’s test it.

        u = 30mph =~ 13.4m/s
        a =~ 9.8m/s/s (varies by location)
        v = 0

        From vv=uu+2as
        s = uu/2a
        s = (13.4*13.4)/(2*9.8)
        s = 9.16m
        One storey is 3m. So that’s three storeys, not nine.

        Now, you could naively claim “but this is about *hitting another car* so your relative speeds are 60mph”. But hitting another car of the same mass travelling at 30mph in the opposite direction is the same as hitting a stationary solid wall (a vehicle of significantly GREATER mass travelling in the opposite direction, though, is a very different kettle of fish).

        If I drove off a 9 storey building, I’d not expect to survive. 3 stories, I’d expect to be shook up but OK if my belt was fastened.

        Now, Codepoet127 mentioned that at 70 mph is equivalent to 50 stories. Let’s try that.
        u = 70mph =~ 31.3m/s
        a =~ 9.8m/s/s
        v = 0

        s = (31.3*31.3)/(2*9.8)
        s = 49.98m
        =~ 17 stories (at 3m each).
        (or ~13 stories using codepoet127’s 13ft stories)

  4. When you get the magazine, you have to go to page 98 and report back about how this could happen to us. Because I think we all really need to know!

  5. Sorry but the facts don’t seem to agree with your premise: the house plant issue is sold out, while the pretty girl issue is still available! Or perhaps Make readers don’t fit the typical marketing paradigms??

  6. That reminds me of the impeccably choreographed and gloriously implausible car chase scenes in the movie “Final Contract”. If I recall correctly the protagonist and his girl jumped a car off the upper story of a building without getting hurt at least three times in the film.

  7. Especially concerning is the mysterious appearance of red bricks around the car, despite smashing through/jumping over a white wall.

  8. But…Where are the bricks coming from? And if they’re just now driving off the building, how did the front of the car already get smashed?

    1. But…Where are the bricks coming from? And if they’re just now driving off the building, how did the front of the car already get smashed?

      They must have smashed the front of the car while crashing through the front of the building into the lobby, then taken an elevator to the roof (the service elevators in this place must be huge). Not sure about the bricks, but it’s amazing that the dog is just now fleeing the car after all that.

      All that to impress a girl. ;-)

    1. From my last driving test:

      If unable to change lanes or swerve, brakes should be applied as soon as wormhole is sighted, so that vehicle may be stopped quickly on other side, if possible.

      This, of course, doesn’t address the issue of whether the other side of the wormhole is at ground level in the first place.

  9. This was obviously done with CGI and a chromakey background. One can clearly tell by looking around the edge of the car, where the dust clouds and bricks appear to be suspended.

  10. This article was quite funny. I love the terms they use to describe the bad drivers such as “chief jerk of the highway”, “suicide-minded dope”, and my personal favorite, the “slow-to-learn type.”

  11. Man’s best friend – HA!

    I suspect that Spot was driving up till he bailed out and Dick grabbed the wheel.

  12. Tom Selleck did this at the Outrigger Canoe Club parking garage back in the eighties. Well, actually, it was his son who drove off the edge (Mr. Selleck was teaching his son to drive) and they went right over the edge. Luckily the garage is only three stories high and no one was hurt.

  13. This cover was painted by legendary film poster artist Reynold Brown, who also created iconic posters for 1950s films such as Attack of the 50ft. Woman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Tarantula!, Attack of the Puppet People, and many hundreds more.

  14. Actually this really happened in Lowestoft, UK. The driver, wanting to commit suicide, repeatedly rammed the sidewall at the top of a multi-storey car park before launching himself into oblivion.

  15. Of course, before the tyrannical imposition of safety belts, people were regularly thrown clear of 30 mph collisions suffering only mussed-up clothing.

    And the occasional traffic light embedded in the amygdala.


    1. Do you live in NOLA? I saw this post and immediately went to the Times-Pic to find the story you linked to! Hehe.

  16. I was able to look inside and find the article by searching google books for “popular science march 1948 30 mph”. Indeed they do say that two cars both going 30mph in a head on collision is ‘like’ falling off a 9 story building. Their math is wrong; assuming vacuum freefall an object would reach 30mph when dropped from a height of about just a few stories. The stories would have to be 1 feet tall for the magazine’s claim to be true.

  17. The advertisements on the first few pages make fascinating reading too. The math course “covering 25 applicable areas of mathematics” has quite a list of contributors! I wonder if it might still be in print. I can think of several home schooling friends who might be tempted to give it a try, both for themselves and for their children.

  18. I dont think the dog escaped. I think it ricocheted around the back seat and was ejected as the car impacted the raised section of the building’s roof.

  19. This post is a microcosm of all the reasons I love the internet. From the original post to the very entertaining and educational comments!

  20. Keep in mind that the seatbelt for cars had not been invented in 1948, so nearly any accident became a full faceplant through the windshield. Though the head would penetrate, the shoulders often would not, leading to decapitation. My brother was in an accident, and suffered a partial face plant, as his head pulled back the glass scalped him, is was a cold day so he didn’t bleed to death, but he did have several nose operations and is left with an ‘aggressive’ look.

  21. There was an actual incident in the early ’60s, reported in the San Francisco Chronicle. Now Hwy 80, then US 101 Bypass, entered a series of ‘skyways’ close to San Francisco. These elevated roads were planned for expansions which never occured, so there were various ramps which were barracaded, some of which headed into space.

    One night a drunk lost control, crashed a barrier, and sailed off of the road at about 60 mph. He hit the side of a multi story apartment building, crashing through a wall, where he happended to stop in someone’s bedroom, with a couple asleep in the bed, and his car coming to rest at the foot of the bed. The couple were reportedly somewhat surprised.

  22. Wow, I’ve just spent a good hour or two reading the whole magazine. From the introduction of DME and ODR for flight navigation, the use of radioactive materials to cure leukemia and the crazy adverts that will make you a millionaire from assembling fans at home I feel somewhat strangely inspired…

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