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Welcome to the Greenwood.Net Curiosity Corner

It's Raining Again

Aug 14, 2018

Curiosity Corner
Dr. Jerry D. Wilson,
Emeritus Professor of Physics
Lander University

Question: When trying to get out of the rain, would you get less wet by walking or running to shelter? (Asked by Bruce Balchin for the early morning Optimum Life cardio rehab group.)

Reply: It’s nice to know that some of those guys are wise enough to come in out of the rain… walking or running! (Just kidding.) With all the rain we’ve had, it probably occurred to them while coming in from the parking lot. This is an old and often-debated question. There have been mathematical models taking into account such parameters as how broad a person is, raindrop size, wind direction, etc., but these get complicated. In science, simple models often work best for a basic understanding.

Let’s assume the rain is falling steadily and evenly, with the wind blowing at a slight angle from the direction the walker or runner is going. Some might argue that walking is better. That is, if you run through the rain, you would get wetter because you are deliberately putting yourself in the path of more raindrops and receiving more by running directly into them. Meanwhile, a slow, steady walker would receive fewer drops and end up drier than he who ran.

That might sound good, but as it turns out, you should run as fast as possible to get out of the rain. Whether to walk or run has more to do with the time and distance to shelter than the volume of rainfall. For a reasonable distance, the runner will be out of the rain in less time than the walker. The walker may benefit slightly from not running directly into the raindrops ahead, but the extra time in the rain would make him wetter.

Experiments have been done to support this result. Persons of similar dress and size compared the effects of walking and running the same distance (100 meters) in the rain by weighing the identical clothes before and after. The clothes of the runner were lighter, being less wet than the clothes of the walker. So, to catch less rain, you should run to your shelter.

There is an exception, however. If you have wind blowing the rain from behind you, then the optimal running speed would be the speed of the wind, so that you are moving at the same pace as the wind-blown raindrops.

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): Moral of the story: carry an umbrella.

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or email jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to www.curiosity-corner.net.

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