Heave-Ho Heifer

Hey, Matt:

Three people from back East told me they had participated in cow-tipping episodes. When I said that I didn't believe them, they said that since I am not from back East, I wouldn't know about it. I saw a commercial claiming that cows in California are happier than any other place, but the laws of physics do not change based upon the mental state of a bovine. A cow weighs more than 1000 pounds and cannot be tipped over by a 150-pound person. They also said that the technique involves sneaking up on the cow while it is sleeping, but cows do not sleep standing up. What do you think? Are you from back East?

-- Skeptic from Chicago

A survey of the Friends of Matthew Alice, a neighborhood knitting and hip-hop society, reveals one person (from back East) who went out one late night (back East) with a friend (from back East) to tip a cow (also from back East). Alabama, I believe, was the state in question. Anyway, friend hopped fence, ran toward cow. Cow actually a bull. Friend beat bull back to fence. The End.

So, my question for you: How many physicists does it take to turn cow-tipping stories into bull pucky? Two. Up in Canada. They penciled out the masses and angles and Newtons and all that physicist stuff and estimated that it would take from two to five people to tip a cow. And that's only if the cow was for some reason highly cooperative or maybe catatonic -- nonreactive to a pack of drunk teens approaching it. Cows are more alert than they look. And, the California happy cows aside, they can get pretty irked if you invade their territory. And of course, cows don't sleep standing up. They doze on the hoof; that's about all. Tipping a cow is not like knocking over a 1500-pound statue. Even if you reach the cow -- hey, you figure the thing's going to move away from you? Hard to knock over a moving bovine. Lotsa drunk fun and giggling amid the cow pies, maybe. Not much tipping.

Our friends the science guys consider cow-tipping stories to be rural myths. Maybe dreamed up by some smarty-pants farmer to fool us urban slickers. But I'm sure we'll hear from a few hayseeds telling us their own stories of mayhem in the meadow and how their cousin's friend once rolled a cow down a hill. We're ready. Lay 'em on us.

Hey, Matt:

My dear boyfriend and I are having a discussion about one particular law in California. I seem to remember hearing on the news in January that it had become a law that if you have your car windshield wipers on, you must have your headlights on. I looked it up on the California DMV booklet, and it does state that if it is raining you must have your headlights on. But my dear boyfriend says that does not mean it is a law. I think the news media was just amplifying it. But is it an actual law that you must have your headlights on if it is raining?

-- KS Cricket, via e-mail

So, your boyfriend believes the headlights-wipers thing is...what?...a friendly suggestion? Uh, yeah, a friendly suggestion that will remove $45 from his wallet if he ignores it. Of course it's an actual law. That's what we elect lawmakers to do. Make laws about stuff like this. If they don't make laws, and lots of them, they'll look as if they're asleep at the wheel. California is absolutely chock full of laws. We have the most productive legislators in the country. So, anyway, consider California Vehicle Code 24400, in re: "headlamps." Went into effect in July of 2005 and says we must turn on our headlights during darkness or "inclement weather." That's when we are unable to see a person or another vehicle on the highway from a distance of 1000 feet. But our legislators are such perfectionists, so eager to please and appear productive, that for the next year they fiddled around with 24400 and came up with the even better 24400(b)(2). That demands we turn on our headlights under any condition that "require(s) the windshield wipers to be in continuous use due to rain, mist, snow, fog, or other precipitation or atmospheric moisture." We already had VC 26707, which required us to operate wipers under conditions of fog, snow, or rain. But the amendment to 24400 forged the final, legislatively satisfying headlights-wipers link that had been missing. It went into effect last January.

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