The Physics of Road Runner


This opening clip will help you introduce your students to the Road Runner (Accelleratii Incredibus) and his perpetually hungry  nemesis, Coyote (Carnivorous Vulgaris). Doesn’t ACME sell coyote food?

Introduction (1:01)

Fan-Powered Ballon with Anvil (1:08)

This clip is rich with physics. Contrast the fan power to the fan powered sail clip. How should the ballon respond when the 500 lb anvil drops? When it rises rapidly? What object should hit the ground first?

Rolling Boulder (0:11)

Does the outcome obey conservation of energy? Is the path of the boulder after leaving the cliff realistic?

Fan Powered Sail (0:36)

Giant Rubber Band (0:21)

Human Cannonball (0:20)

Log Tunnel (0:28)

Outboard Motor (0:51)

Pendulum (0:21)

Rock Fall (0:34)

Spring Launch (0:26)

Spring Punch (0:18)

Could this propulsion scheme work? Does it follow Newton’s 3rd Law? Would adding a sail to a propeller powered car work? Compare to the fan-powered balloon. Why couldn’t Coyote make the turn?

Compare the force required to stretch the rubber band to that required to move the boulders. What is the ultimate source of this force? Is momentum conserved in the end?

Blatant violation of Conservation of Momentum. It is similar to the Spring Punch clip. Is there anyway this could happen? (Hint: think Neutron Star)

Good static equilibrium demonstration. Strong evidence that Road Runner has much less mass than Coyote. One Road Runner couldn’t possibly nourish one Coyote.

This clip is similar to the fan-powered sail. It ends with the Coyote going off yet another cliff. His path is horizontal until he comes to a stop. If only he wouldn’t look down! A colleague calls the horizontal part the NFD, No Falling Distance. Many of your students have the misconception that the NFD increases with initial speed.

Although Coyote give the pendulum a small push, this is still a clear violation of Conservation of Energy. How does Road Runner know exactly where to stop?

Demonstration of the importance of knowing where the Center of Gravity is located. Good use of plumb bob and telescope is wasted.

The Coyote is thwarted by poor design this time. What could be the spring constant if the Coyote is able to compress it by pushing horizontally?

This one is similar to the Human Cannonball clip. Momentum is definitely not conserved.

These clips from Warner Brothers Road Runner and Coyote cartoons are intended for use by physics teachers. Suggestions for use are included next to each clip. It is recommended that you download and archive each clip that you would like to use. The posting of theses clips for educational purposes conforms with fair use of the copyright act.

Sample PowerPoint Slides for Use with Clips

This is a set of slides that I use on the first day of my physics class. Make sure you have downloaded the clips to the same folder as this ppt. You may have to re-insert the movies. I indicate which movie goes with each slide in the slide notes.