Saturday, December 30, 2006

How Fast Did Saddam Slide Into Hell?

"I saw fear, he was afraid."

So says Ali Al Massedy, the man chosen to videotape the execution of Saddam Hussein. Standing only three feet away from the ex-dictator as he slid into eternity, Ali was in a perfect position to observe Hussein as the final preparations for his death were completed.

There was some discussion whether or not Saddam would be strangled by the rope in a short drop (ala Iranian executions), or if he would be given the option of a quick neck pop in a long drop. From Ali's account,

Saddam dropped through—from "me to you," he said, crouching down to show how he shot the scene. The distance, he said, was "about one meter,"

It was the long drop.

From the official Iraqi government photograph, the rope used to hang Saddam looks like it could be used to lash the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan to the dock at San Diego. I wonder if "alleged" lengths of it will show up on eBay?

From the photo, it appears as if there is at least five to six feet of slack in the rope.

Using the British Table of Drops, we can infer that Hussein may have been hung by the 1913 standards. A man weighing 200 lbs and over requires a drop of at least five feet. Saddam was 6'2" and his weight fluctuated between 210 and 220 pounds.

Now for arguments sake, let's assume that it only took a second for Saddam to reach the end of his rope, so to speak. We know that the force of gravity is a constant, that is, 32 feet per second squared. Using the acceleration equation

Vf = Vo + at

we can solve for final velocity. The initial velocity, Vo, is zero because Saddam was at rest. Not really at rest cause he was probably crapping his pants, but he wasn't moving in relation to the gallows. So all we have is that Saddam accelerated for one second at 32 ft/sec2. So he was probably moving at about 32 feet per second when he ran out of rope. That is only 21.8 mph. Saddam's velocity was barely sufficient to get him bagged for speeding in a school zone.

Kinetic energy (KE) is something else. What was the force (power) exerted on his neck vertebrae? The formula for finding the kinetic energy of a moving object is:

KE = 1/2 * M * V2

where m = mass of object and v = speed of object. This is easier to solve in metric units of measure. Estimating Saddam's weight at 210 pounds (he didn't have much of an appetite lately) his metric weight would be 95.25 kilos. His final velocity would actually be zero since the rope brought him to an abrupt stop, but just before that point, he would be travelling at 35.1 kmh or 9.75 meters per second.

Using the KE equation, that is only 4,527 joules/sec. Converted to US measurements, that translates to 3,339 ft lbs/sec. or the equivalent of 6.07 horsepower.


The Ultimate Dictator of Iraq was killed by the equivalent output of a Briggs & Stratton mulching lawnmower engine.

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