These students rock.
In 1976, a Frenchman made a film called ‘C’etait un Rendezvous’ consisting solely of some guy driving a Ferrari really, really fast through the streets of Paris.
The idea is that the guy wanted to meet his girlfriend (hence the title) and the film ends with him parking the car and getting out to meeting a pretty young thing on some hillside.
The entire film is shot from the bumper of the Ferrari (a 275 GTB) as it jams through the streets of Paris in real time. The film is nine minutes long, and was shot early one morning, without any permits, on streets open to the public. While it’s great fun to watch, it was irresponsible as hell to film — the driver runs red lights, drives the wrong way up one-way streets, etc.
What’s geeky about this is that a group of physics students (I think they’re students, anyway) did some calculations on time and distance to determine exactly how fast the car was traveling at certain points.
To make a distance-time graph for Claude Lelouch’s trip, we tried to mark off Paris landmarks such as large boulevards and restaurants. Between each landmark, we would record the times then, using MapQuest and Expedia, recorded the distances between each landmark
Lelouch traveled down some roads in the wrong direction, making our job tougher. When he was nearing his destination, the Sacred Heart Basilica, he made a number of twists and turns down streets we could barely find on maps. Luckily we found a large restaurant, Le Consulat, on a one-way street.
There’s a chart on this page, and the bottom line is that the guy was absolutely flying at some points in the trip. For example —
At second #171, the driver passed a landmark that was 5,190 meters into his trip. Eighteen seconds later (second #189), the driver passed a landmark that was 6,290 meters into his trip. This means he traveled 1,100 meters in 18 seconds, or 61 meters per second. That’s almost 140 m.p.h.
You need to watch the film to really appreciate the analysis. You can see it on iFilm or Google Video. Wikipedia also has some good information about the film.
These students have done other analysis of films. They’ve figured out the speed of cars in Bad Boys II, The French Connection, The Blues Brothers, etc. Better yet, they’ve tried to figure out the tensile strength of Spiderman’s webs from a couple of scenes in the films.