Sonic Sidebar - Cow Tipping

February 23, 2014

To the Best of Our Knowledge is produced at Wisconsin Public Radio, and if there’s one thing we know here in America’s dairyland, it’s cows.  So as long as we’re talking about lies that last… have you ever tried to tip a cow? 

Interesting in that cow tipping equation? Click here.



I listened to this on WITF today and the guest's attempt at discussing the physics of cow tipping included this nonsense:
"And you generate force, you know the equation for force is force equals mass times acceleration. And, so even if you have these six people you can't, ideally you're not gonna all be able to increase your own mass"
Dr. Lillie's equation is correct, but it's the cow's mass in the formula, not the people, and if you can get the cow to accelerate at even 1/1000 g, you can still tip the (sleeping) cow. You wouldn't generate force by accelerating, but by flexing your muscles.

The segment about cow tipping failed in multiple ways. It failed to explain that cows sleep lying down, not standing - perhaps the core reason the myth persists. And it erroneously claims that two people (young men) can't tip over a disabled (sleeping) cow. If a cow was really asleep while standing, and magically remained so, it could certainly be tipped over by two strong men. But if its awake, the issue then has nothing to do with mass and forces, but everything to do with the cow walking away, moving its legs and body to avoid falling over if you do try to push it over. attaching the attackers, etc. A very poor segment, that ironically extends one myth (that cows sleep standing) and adds another (that a disabled cow couldn't be tipped over).

Now there's some solid midwestern public radio investigative reporting.

(I kid because I love.)