In the latest issue of the European Journal of Physics, Franco Bocci ponders (pdf) one of life’s enduring mysteries. If you’re caught in the rain without an umbrella, is it better to run or walk in order to stay as dry as possible?
Running seems entirely sensible—you can get to dry shelter quicker. But you also hit more raindrops by running. So there’s a genuine trade-off. Bocci used math to explore the problem more thoroughly and found that running isusually better, although it really depends on the situation:
The problem of choosing an optimal strategy for moving in the rain has attracted considerable attention among physicists and other scientists. Taking a novel approach, this paper shows, by studying simple shaped bodies, that the answer depends on the shape and orientation of the moving body and on wind direction and intensity. For different body shapes, the best strategy may be different: in some cases, it is best to run as fast as possible, while in some others there is an optimal speed.
Basically, the best strategy for staying dry (or at least somewhat dry) is to run as fast as possible. Unless you’re really thin, in which case there may be a more optimal speed. And if you’ve got a tailwind behind you, then you should run exactly as fast as the wind at your back.
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