For years, physicists and mathematicians have debated a simple question: when it’s raining and you’re without an umbrella, will you stay drier if you run or walk?
Each position is supported by a logical argument: if you walk, you’re out in the rain for a longer time, but if you run you hit more raindrops. Dozens of scientific papers have addressed the issue and discussed factors like wind speed. Now Professor Franco Bocci has weighed in, arguing that prior efforts have not adequately taken into account factors like the human shape. He says past calculations have assumed human beings are like thin sheets or upright, rectangular boxes — and you tend not to see many such shapes in today’s super-sized world. He concludes that, for the most part, the best approach is to run through the rain as fast as you can.
I wonder whether Professor Bocci’s analysis adequately considers the length of the rainy space to be crossed, its condition, and the condition of the person trying to stay as dry as possible. Not many people wearing business suits are going to successfully sprint 500 yards through a downpour, no matter what mathematical models might say. And if you’re making a mad dash down a city street trying to avoid a good soaking, you’re far more likely to charge through an undetected puddle or be splashed by a passing car and get even more soaked. The better course often is to evaluate the topography and availability of awnings and overhangs, and then plot a carefully calibrated zig-zag course that affords maximum cover while not requiring heroic running performances.
Or, better yet, have the foresight to carry an umbrella.