Sunday, October 29, 2006

M*A*S*H 1977

The final splash!

I do not really know why people get more depressed at the approach of holidays in the US. I am not even sure if this is true worldwide, and would be amazed if that is so. In any case, so called US experts would assert they know all the reasons behind this perceived trend which they name SAD for "seasonal affective disorder." Very appropriately, a documentary movie is recently released named "The Bridge." This documentary film deals with the most popular suicide destination in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA. After learning about this film, my memory flashes back several decades to my youth from which I can recall vividly one question I had to which I did not readily have answers at that time. I know I can dive from a diving platform into a swimming pool. The question was: can I dive into an ocean from a very high altitude (like jumping off an airplane) to gracefully split the water to win a gold medal as the world's best Olympic diver? According to "The Bridge:" No! Over my dead body! Actually, that's what the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge is famous for: that's how you commit suicide, jump off that bridge.

You see, it's all in the physics of how things go in this universe. Curiously, it involves the second law of thermodynamics and Shakespear, but I am in a mellow mood now and will spare you that highly philosophical tirade. Let's talk low order physics:

From the bridge escarpment, you are about 250 feet above the ocean surface below. From elementary Newton's calculation, it takes you a mere 4 seconds to free fall and reach the water with a velocity of about 90 miles per hour. On reaching the surface of the water, unfortunately, you carry with you a lot of baggage: your kinetic energy! By the law of conservation of energy and momentum etc... regardless of how your body meets the water molecules, this energy is converted to other forms such as heat and forces that want to interact with every molecules of your body, some of which are your skull, your femur, fibula, tibia, humerus, radius, ulna, clavical etc...

Although your bones are hard as steel, they are no match! There are fascinating engineering studies of how the 206 bones in a human boby break under the stress of stretching, compression, torsion etc... the bottom line is, under appropriate stress, they all break. At 90 miles per hour impacting the water molecules, many of the bones will break, leaving the internal organs exposed to the environment. The bottom line is

“jumps from higher than . . . 250 feet over water are almost always fatal.”

"Jumpers who hit the water do so with a force of about fifteen thousand pounds per square inch. Eighty-five per cent of them suffer broken ribs, which rip inward and tear through the spleen, the lungs, and the heart. Vertebrae snap, and the liver often ruptures."

The final splash!

Interestingly, it is not always fatal because some suiciders have second thought during that 4 seconds so they chose to go feet first and their skull may remain intact. With some cooperation from lady luck, they can survive to tell.

Below are two very interesting graphical representations of studies related to "The Bridge:"

The first one shows the distribution of the locations from which suiciders jumped off. They like the location of light pole numbered 69, facing the East side of the bridge, and at about mid-span.

The final splash!

The second graph shows the distribution of suiciders over the years since the bridge was first constructed in 1937. 1977 had the highest number of 40 persons jumping off the bridge. It is not clear how many survived, not too many.

The final splash!

And you know what? Take a look at that year, 1977, one of the most popular television shows was: "M*A*S*H" whose theme song was by Mike Altman and Johnny Mandel. Its title? "Suicide is Painless."

Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be,
The pains that are withheld for me,
I realize and I can see...

That suicide is painless,
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.

The game of life is hard to play,
I'm going to loose it anyway,
The loosin' card I'll someday lay;
So this is all I have to say...

That suicide is painless,
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.

The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I'm beat
And to another give my seat
For that's the only painless feat.

That suicide is painless,
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.
And you can do the same thing if you please.

Copyright (C) 1970 by Twentieth Century-Fox Music Corporation,
8544 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069
Twentieth Century-Fox Music Corp. Ltd., London W1, England
International Copyright Secured
Made in U.S.A.
All Rights Reserved

Not so, according to my analysis and recorded facts at "The Bridge."

Let's see, if things do not go so well, where else can one go? To start... The Empire State Building (102 floors, 1252 feet, 381 meters high,) the Duomo, St. Peter’s Basilica, Sydney Harbor Bridge and the eternal city of light with its Eiffel Tower! I am sure you do not want to see my analysis of how the Young Modulus of bones behave when bones hit the concrete.

Cheers! Don't be so gloomy, please!

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