Tommy (Lost) in Space!

Sep 13, 2010

RAY: This is from my Lost in Space series. Some years ago, Tommy was chosen to be a NASA Astronaut. Now, during his rigorous three-hour training program, there had been some talk about a stuck bolt preventing the deployment of a solar collector. So my brother decided to take matters into his own hands. He's that kind of guy. While the other crew members slept, Tommy put on his space suit, opened the hatch, and with his official Car Talk tool kit in hand, he exited the spacecraft. With skills honed from years of working on Rennos, MGs, Triumphs, Fiats, and Dodge Dartres, he managed to free the stuck bolt, and by himself, deployed the solar collector.

As he turned to pick up his tool kit, he noticed it had drifted away a little bit. He reached for it, but in the process, launched himself and that cheap tool kit into the inky darkness of space. In his haste and eagerness to be come a hero, he had forgotten the all-important tether.

Now the distance between him and the safety of the hatch was slowly, but undeniably, increasing. He called for help, hoping that his shipmates could help, and they couldn't hear him. Why? They were all sleeping! But in utter frustration and dispair, Tommy did something that by luck, saved his sorry butt. The question is what did he do?
RAY: Here's the answer. Tommy and the cheap toolkit are drifting into space. He takes the toolkit in frustration and throws it away. And by throwing it away, he creates a force in the opposite direction that thrusts backwards.

TOM: Wow.

RAY: It's Newton's third law of motion - for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction. So the action of thrusting the toolkit into space created the reaction of the toolkit actually exerting a force on Tommy and thrusting him toward the hatch and to safety. Do we have a winner?

TOM: We certainly do. Our winner this week is Linda Hoseck, from Crown Point, Indiana. And for having her answer selected at random from among all of the correct answers that we got, Linda is going to get a $26 gift certificate to the Shameless Commerce Division, with which she can get our new Distracted Driving T-shirt. Congratulations, Linda!

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