Motorbike & inertia

This morning, while on the way to work, noticed a motorbike at the traffic lights.

I have often wondered why motorists like to weave their way to the front of the lines whenever the traffic lights turned red, so that they are the first to go off when the lights changed. Surely not everyone on a motorbike is impatient? Although I have never owned a motorbike before, I have been told that it’s more than just wanting a head start on every one else. In fact, it is safer for the motorists because motorbikes have higher acceleration than cars, and motorists have less protection around them in case they get squashed in by cars.

Being quite satisfied with that answer, and having learnt a little about 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines for a high school assignment, I managed to convince myself, “The trick is in the different types of engines: a 2-stroke engine on a motorbike, though less powerful than a 4-stroke engine on a car, produces higher acceleration“. Case closed.

However, this morning, while seeing another bike take off when the lights changed, it occurred to me that inertia (and momentum) is just as important, if not more so. That is, in order to move something with a large mass (for non-science people, mass = weight here), a larger initial force is required to overcome the friction, than moving a lighter object, like a motorbike. Hence inertia. Newton’s First Law. All very basic stuff, really. This, I am sure, is obvious to many out there. But why couldn’t I see it in all these years?

I guess the answer may be that after being satisfied with the first – and quite plausible – explanation, I was content to treat it as the truth. In a word, I stopped searching. I wonder: how often do we take things for granted, and accept reasonable explanations without blink of an eye? How often we brush things aside because we see them as self-evident, or for the sake of efficiency, at the cost of not discovering simple truths?

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