Friday, January 22, 2010

Victor's Law of Vehicular Adhesion

I have found that car enthusiasts are often annoyed with people who cannot drive.  Despite being an Asian, I am not an exception.  After a couple years of driving, I've noticed a couple things that occur on Michigan roads and since this is a car blog, I'd thought it most appropriate to share my thoughts here.  Not quite beater related, just something a little different.

Today, I will focus on something which I like to call, "Victor's Law of Vehicular Adhesion".  In school, we learned about this concept called gravity.  According to Wikipedia, this is when "objects with mass attract one another".  And with cars, this is no exception.  Imagine yourself driving down a two lane highway.  You are in the right lane and going at the speed limit (for legal reasons, we do not advocate speeding), but then, you approach a slow car in the same lane.  You plan pass on the left, but you see a fast car coming up right behind you in the left lane.  Obviously, you don't want to be an asshole and cut off the fast car so you wait until it passes.  So you continue on your merry way and wait for the car to pass.  After fiddling with the radio a bit, you notice that there is no one in the left lane in front of the slow car, so you turn on the indicators to pass, and BAM!  You look over and the fast car is right next to you, going at the same speed you are going.  Stuck together like an adhesive.  This is the concept behind "Victor's Law of Vehicular Adhesion".  When one car gets besides another, they will both travel at the same speed, regardless of the speed difference between the two cars prior.  This is "what really grinds my gears".  Not that I sometimes accidentally shift into reverse while the car is rolling forwards...  That's a different story.

You may be thinking, "Wow, I've noticed this!  How do I break this "adhesion"?"  It's actually pretty simple.  Just go faster.  In order to break free from the gravitational pull, you have to exceed the escape velocity.  You may discover some resistance to break free, because the car beside you won't let go, but with most adhesives, their strength has limits.  In my example, since I am unable to go faster in the lane that I am in, so I either have to slow down or the driver in the faster car will notice the pull and try to speed up.  Eventually the bond will break.

You may argue that "I see people passing other people all the time".  That is true.  Watch carefully the next time you drive on the highway.  Cars may appear to be going at a constant speed, but when they pass slower cars, they will momentarily slow down a bit, this is sometimes noticeable.  Another argument might be that "I use cruise control, so this is rubbish".  Well, the cruise control will detect the gravitational pull and automatically compensate for it.  Everyone knows that cruise control has a gravitational sensor that detects these types of things...

Others may think that this law is bunk.  Well, the proof is everywhere, just watch carefully the next time you're driving and I'll let you be the judge...

Oh yeah, what is so annoying about this?  People don't notice that their speed changed and do nothing to correct it.


  1. Haha, It's true. And certain states are worse than others for it. Minnesota, for example, is the nation's JB Weld of automotive adhesion.

    Maybe in future articles you can cover left lane entitlement syndrome.

  2. I agree with all of this.

    The phenomenon is also supported by the fact that slower vehicles tend to be heavier. This naturally has a greater pull on the lighter, faster vehicle.

    When the lighter vehicle passes the slower one, the centripetal force also veers the lighter vehicle back into its correct lane in order to complete the passing maneuver.

    Well done for discovering this Victor!