The Science of Speed Films

In Star Trek, Scotty repeatedly tells Captain Kirk “I cannae change the laws of physics!”. As part of National Science Week, CARRS-Q is demonstrated how the laws of physics also apply on the road. Two short films were launched at QUT’s The Cube on Monday 14 August 2017 to explain the science of speed and how it affects our everyday life.

“At CARRS-Q we want people to understand the physics of speed and the limitations of human biology. National Science Week provides a great opportunity to show students and the general public how science is being applied to improve our safety on the roads.”

The films demonstrate that humans are not designed to withstand the forces that commonly occur in crashes and how cars can succeed – or not succeed – in protecting drivers and passengers. Footage from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) and the Transport Accident Commission shows that some modern cars are much safer than others in a crash, but the speeds at which they can protect their occupants in particular types of crashes are still alarmingly low. How Newton’s Laws affect whether crashes occur and their consequences are also explained.

“We learn about Newton’s Laws of Motion in high school but we often think about them in terms of planets, forgetting that they also apply to cars and people” noted Professor Narelle Haworth, Director of CARRS-Q. “The screening at The Cube shows that road crashes are a violent transfer of energy, and explains the roles of vehicle mass and velocity in generating that energy. The amount of energy that needs to be absorbed by vehicles and human bodies is proportional to the square of speed. So double the speed means four times as much energy.”

As a society and as individuals, we may not want to slow down, but remember what Star Trek taught us: “I cannae change the laws of physics”.


Kim Smith, Marketing & External Relations Coordinator: or +61 7 3138 4568.