Centrifugal Force

At least one other person shares my only major complain about Atlas Shrugged, the Movie:

I was uncomfortable with a train going 250 MPH on those curves with the passengers standing up. Sorry, but I don’t think they ran the numbers through the physics equations before they filmed those scenes. And the curves had better have some appropriate slope to them to keep the train from rolling over or pushing the tracks off the railway bed.

I think I annoy Bitter by being annoyed by such things, but high speed rail lines have to be pretty straight for a reason.

15 Responses to “Centrifugal Force”

  1. Voolfie says:

    It’s not just Hollywood that gets this wrong. When Amtrak debuted the Acela, they found out THEN that it couldn’t go anywhere near as fast as they’d predicted because of the tracks (and the residential areas it goes through)

  2. DirtCrashr says:

    Og calculated that on a hot day they also expand a wee bit: A mile of continuous welded rail will grow in summer and shrink in winter- that mile long piece of steel will be 101″ longer at 100 degrees than at 0 degrees! To prevent the rail from just leaving the track it is secured to plates, which hinder it’s growth. And consequently the rail will weave and buckle all up and down the line.
    So at 250mph you’re pushing a small standing-wave of buckling steel in front of you… What happens at the end of the line, steel whiplash?

  3. Bitter says:

    Yes, I do get annoyed. It had a $10 million budget. You’re not getting top notch special effects & location choices on that kind of budget. That’s something you know going into the movie, so I just think you should get over it.

  4. Garrett Lee says:

    Actually, with continuously-welded steel rail, they first heat the rail up past the highest reasonable operating condition (so it’s at maximum length) and then weld it – when it cools, it remains basically the same length, but with a lot of internal tensile stresses. When it comes to long columns, tension is far preferred to compression (which is what would happen if the rails weren’t heated first, and would cause buckling).

  5. Caleb says:

    They clearly just skipped over the part of the movie where they also invented inertial dampeners.

  6. aeronathan says:

    Don’t feel bad. I still get annoyed at sci-fi movies that feature sound in space. One of the little things I loved about Firefly was no sound in space….

  7. Alpheus says:

    I was going to say something similar to what Bitter said. What is a director going to do–build a rail system that can go 250mph, just to make a movie?

    In any case, I look forward to seeing the movie–it will be the first movie for my wife and I in a few years–despite the problem with physics! Indeed, my greatest concern will likely be the other problem that Joe mentioned: they cut out certain things, and if you’re not familiar with the book, you’ll be a little confused. Neither my wife nor I have read the book.

    Even though I’m a mathematician, I can sometimes be oblivious to things like physics issues, or math issues–at least, unless it sparks my imagination, and I start thinking about it! Or it is over-the-top glaringly bad.

  8. Sebastian says:

    I assume the rail scenes were CGI, rather than an actual train.

  9. Tam says:

    Ayn obviously knew nothing about the rail business, the steel industry, naval warfare, or high finance. Or physics, since John Galt’s claim to fame was his MacGuffin of a perpetual motion engine.

    Of course, the book was not intended as a documentary: All this stuff was just set dressing for the philosophical message she was pulpit-pounding.

    (Incidentally, the whole thing with starships and troopers is really just a sideline to the real point behind Heinlein’s Starship Troopers… ;) )

  10. Peter says:

    I’m generally not allowed to watch any sort of historical movie with my bride because of that sort of thing.

    Noticing that the “Germans” are operating M48 tanks will get me banned.

    Amongst other things.


  11. DirtCrashr says:

    Garrett Lee – Thank you for that explanation, mucho obligato.

  12. jon says:

    It was running on Rearden steel… that’s why it was able to maintain such speeds. The book goes into SO much detail explaining how the rules of physics had to be re written to axomidate the new metal.

  13. Sebastian says:

    Certain rules of physics don’t get to be re-written. Centrifugal force being among them. I don’t care how strong you make the tracks, if they aren’t emitting some kind of gravity field, trains will still tip over, and railways beds still have limitations regardless of the rail material.

  14. Todd says:

    Its in the script guys, thats how they do it.

  15. jon says:

    I don’t disagree on anything specifically… but that’s how it was written.