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Task on MTV Battle of the Sexes : Obstacle course atop moving trucks

  1. Jan 3, 2005 #1
    Task on MTV "Battle of the Sexes": Obstacle course atop moving trucks

    This may seem off-the-wall, but the competitive task used on tonight's installment of MTV's "Battle of the Sexes" seemed very physics-laden (this is a show that brings together former cast members from MTV shows "The Real World" and "Road Rules"). In a nutshell, the contestants had to run an obstacle course while atop a set of linked trailers, which were being pulled by a semi truck around a track at 30 miles per hour. I'll give more details on the set-up in the paragraphs below. It just seemed to me that, for you teachers out there, this could be a fruitful demo if you taped the show and discussed the task with your students; MTV replays this show frequently.

    (Documents are available on the web about the "fair use" doctrine and using copyrighted materials for teaching purposes. Here is one example: http://www.nolo.com/lawcenter/ency/...1F3/catID/2EB060FE-5A4B-4D81-883B0E540CC4CB1E )

    As I mentioned above, a semi truck pulled a set of three linked trailers at 30 mph. Each trailer had its own task. Contestants started atop the trailer furthest back. On this trailer, contestants had to walk or run along a fairly thin plank of wood, probably about 10-15 feet long. The key was to maintain one's balance while being pulled along at 30 mph. At first, contestants tried to walk straight along the plank, but this turned out to be virtually impossible. They then realized that three planks were present, laid flat on the platform in the shape of the letter "N." For part of the task, they could thus rest one leg on one plank and the other on another. It would seem interesting to diagram all the forces acting on the contestant at any point in time, such as the forward motion of the trucks, wind, gravity, and friction.

    (I'm a non-physicist, doing my best to remember what I learned in college about classical mechanics :confused:. My main interest in physics is reading the writings of Brian Greene and other prominent physicists for the layperson on topics such as quantum mechanics, relativity, particle physics, string theory, and supersymmetry).

    Once contestants reached the end of the plank, they had to jump ahead onto the top of the next trailer. They wore protective equipment and there were nets to catch anyone who might fall over the side. The second trailer had contestants run through some tires that had been laid out, which appeared to be nowhere near as difficult as traversing the planks had been. They then had to jump onto the third trailer (right behind the semi truck) where they had to run up and then down a see-saw, then crawl over and under a set of horizontal bars.

    As I mentioned, the motor vehicles were traveling around an oval track. It was interesting to see that contestants thought it advantageous to wait for the vehicles to go around a curve, before they would resume moving ahead at certain points. Also, one contestant who was short in stature thought that his having a low center of gravity would be an asset.

    If anyone's interested, the men defeated the women on cumulative time for all team members to complete the course (if one fell off at any point, he/she had to start over).

    If anyone could comment on some of these points, I (and perhaps others) would enjoy seeing explanations of the various components of this activity. Perhaps in another day or so, there will be photographs of the activity on MTV's website:

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 5, 2005 #2
    MTV has just posted on its website a brief (1 minute, 30 seconds) video clip of the "obstacle course atop moving truck" task, which I described in the message above.


    Once the page comes up, you would select the video clip "Come On, Robin."

    I hope some of you will take a few minutes to look at the clip and perhaps comment on the physics of the task.
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