This has been a puzzle to me for a long time. Since it has been raining lately, I'd appreciate your help. How do you stay drier, by walking through the rain so the drops fall on you slower or running through the rain, which takes less time, but the drops hit you harder? Or are they equal?
-- Ellen, Bay Park
It's almost discouraging to realize that mathematicians and physicists have actually studied this question. The less relentless and anal-retentive among us would probably suggest that they BUY AN UMBRELLA. Oh, well. Here's what they had to say, according to the American Journal of Physics and Mathematics Magazine. Of course, they didn't use real people and real rain. They constructed mathematical models ("N drops per second per unit area") that don't have the charming unpredictability of real people or real rain. Basically, both studies say that the faster you go, the less wet you get. The number of drops that fall from above will be the same, running or walking; but you'll smash into fewer drops in front of you if you run. The physicist helpfully suggests that the wetness differential between a slow run and a marathon pace is fairly small. But say the rain is being blown horizontally from behind you. If you could run at the same speed as the drops, you wouldn't get wet at all.