XKCD Finally Answers The Question About How Fast You Can Die At Daytona

Illustration for article titled XKCD Finally Answers The Question About How Fast You Can Die At Daytona

Every Monday morning, I wake up, come to work, turn my computer on, and ponder the same question. "Sure, I'd like to enter the Daytona 500, but I'd want to get it over with really quickly because it's Monday and I have Things To Do. How fast could I do it before I die a horrific, debilitating death?"


Consider the question ANSWERED. Thank you, XKCD.

XKCD's always-prescient What If? posited the ages-old question last week of what exactly would happen if NASCAR actually went truly fast, and tried to exceed the limits of human endurance:

If you stripped away all the rules of car racing and had a contest which was simply to get a human being around a track 200 times as fast as possible, what strategy would win? Let's say the racer has to survive.

Spoiler alert: the answer is around 90 minutes, or about twice as quickly as the Daytona 500 currently takes. I say "around," because a lot of it depends on how many G forces the driver can sustain, and for how long. Formula One drivers have been known to top 5G going through fast bends, have endured a sustained 4.5G.

Fighter pilots regularly beat 9G, with the aid of specifically-adapted suits.

And if the limit a driver could be expected to maintain over 500 laps is 4G, as XKCD postulates, the cars would have to drive 240 MPH. But even that is fraught with problems. In 2001, a CART race called the Firestone Firehawk 600 was postponed and then cancelled after drivers reported initial symptoms of G-force Induced Loss of Conscious, or G-LOC, at speeds above 225 MPH on the particularly fast track.

But then XKCD gets at the really important heart of the question – what if we have a complete and wanton disregard for human life? What then?

Well, you die, mostly. But first, you go really fast.

Head on over to XKCD to read the whole thing.

Photo credit: Getty Images


I just picked up (XKCD author) Randall Monroe's book on answers to crazy hypothetical questions like this one. I'm about halfay through it and I would definitely recommend to anyone interested in this kind of stuff. My favorite so far is 'what would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% of the speed of light.'