Monday, November 19, 2007

Gregory's Special Theory of Relative Differentiality

Lately I have been doing a lot of driving on Interstate highways, and while doing so I have discovered a previously unknown principle of physics. Now, I'm sure many other people -- probably including you -- have observed this principle in action, but I think I'm the first to have the insight that it is, indeed, a Natural Law, and to so codify it, and so I lay claim to name it for myself: Gregory's Special Theory of Relative Differentiality. Simply put, it is this:

The relative speed of another vehicle to your vehicle is directly dependent on whether or not the other vehicle is in your lane.

This seems simple on the surface, but the implications are profound. You can observe the Law in action for yourself. Merely do the following:

Drive along a convenient Interstate or other dual-lane highway at seventy miles an hour (because of course you never speed) in the right-hand lane. Note when you are closing on another vehicle that is in your lane and traveling slower than you. Let's say he is going sixty-five. The relative difference in speed between you is five miles per hour.

Now, using your turn signal (because of course you always signal your lane changes), move into the left-hand lane to overtake this vehicle ahead of you. At this point you will observe that you are no longer gaining on the vehicle ahead. Although you are still going seventy, and the vehicle ahead is still going sixty-five, the gap between you and the vehicle ahead remains exactly the same. The relative difference in speed is now zero. This is my discovery.

So, you think the vehicle ahead has actually sped up? You are wrong. You will realize you are wrong as soon as another vehicle going ninety rides up on your bumper so close that the two of you could share Grey Poupon. Since you aren't gaining on the vehicle ahead, you return to the right-hand lane (after signaling, of course). At this point, you will find that you suddenly resume gaining again on the vehicle ahead. With alarming rapidity, in fact. When you are in the same lane, the relative difference in speed is no longer zero.

After mister-going-ninety has passed, change back to the left-hand lane. You will find that you are once again no longer gaining on the vehicle ahead.

So, you see, the relative difference in speed between you and the person ahead depends solely on which lane you are in. Not on how fast either of you are actually going. I don't know what accounts for this phenomenon, though I suspect that the answer lies somewhere in Quantum Physics.

A corrolary to Gregory's Special Theory relates to whether or not you are behind of, or ahead of, the other vehicle in your lane. If you ever do overtake the car ahead -- say, by going eighty, naughty you -- and then return to the right-hand lane and slow back down to seventy, the vehicle that is now behind you, and only going sixty-five, will suddenly start gaining on you, proving that a negative speed differential is created by getting in front of the other vehicle. I'm still working the math for this one.

I have observed this Theory and Corollary in action many, many times in the past three weeks, on several highways, with many other vehicles. It's not an aberration. It is a Law of Nature.



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