The Terminal Velocity of Squirrels


Squirrels, it is said, can survive a fall from any height, but I bet no one has thrown a squirrel out of an airplane at 30,000 feet. Clowns, when unconscious, will not survive a fall from 30,000 feet: they’ll just mutate into a mess. Coincidentally, an unconscious squirrel would probably not survive a fall from 30,000 feet either. The reason for this similarity between falling clowns and falling squirrels has to do with their mass and the area of the interface between a falling creature and the air. A conscious squirrel will spread-eagle and will quickly reach a velocity at which the air resistance against his furry silhouette will match the force of gravity tugging at him. This velocity is called the squirrel’s “terminal velocity.” An unconscious squirrel will tumble and roll and may even end up in a head first nose dive, reducing the interface between his fuzzy body and the air, thus reducing his drag force, and fatally increasing his terminal velocity. A clown, thanks to his hair, big feet and hands, and baggy pants, can deliver an impressive drag coefficient when it has a mind to. It’s also why clowns scare people. And that brings us to today’s topic: scary choices.

Earlier today, I read a statement by someone in response to an online post about some Christians who vandalized the Darwin fish off the back of someone’s car. The commenter said, “Stuff like that is the reason why I’m no longer a Christian. I’m a pagan and a Satanist.”

Others might say that the Christians were just demonstrating evolutionary advantage and an actualized self-worship manifested as idealized egoism, but not me. I’d never say that.

If you threw Darwin out of an airplane at 30,000 feet he would not die, because he is already dead. But if he were alive and you threw him out at 30,000 feet he would probably perish, unless he evolved wings or baggy pants on the way down. The Darwin fish, if you don’t know, is a bastardization of the Jesus fish. The Jesus fish is an ancient symbol that Christians used as a secret knock to get into one another’s houses during persecutions. If you take the Jesus fish, put legs on it, and stick “DARWIN” inside its body like Jonah, you get a Darwin fish. Darwinian evolutionists use it to let Christians know that they can replace the Christian God with science and the result will still stick to the trunk of a car. Christians, such as myself, find this odd because that’s common sense: it’s still a sticker. So, we just shrug, shake our Rosary beads, and wonder why sticky-backed lungfish named Darwin are venerated by atheists while a nice, clever, witty guy like Jesus is anathema.

Charles Darwin could not stick a Darwin fish or a Jesus fish to the back of his car because he didn’t own a car. The modern car was patented in Germany in 1886, years after Chuck’s death in 1882. I suppose he could have surreptitiously stuck a Darwin fish to the back of Gustave Trouvé’s electric car in 1881, but by then Charley had been suffering chronic ill-health for about 40 years from overwork and was near to death, so I doubt he’d travel to France. Besides, there was no evolutionary advantage to sticking any kind of fish on Trouvé’s car. But you can’t blame him for trying. And besides, it’d be a fun and largely harmless prank.

Charles Darwin was neither a pagan nor a Satanist. For most of his life he was some sort of Christian or other. At the end of his life he was a self-proclaimed agnostic. Maybe he evolved further into an atheist near the end, or maybe he turned back, but we’ll never know. It doesn’t really matter which to this discussion, however, because he was unequivocally not a pagan or a Satanist. Nor was he a clown — though I did once see a picture of him wearing loose-fitting checkered pants. I don’t think they were baggy enough to significantly change his drag coefficient.

Darwin’s wife, Emma, was also his first cousin. I’m not sure where to go with that, so I’ll just say that there is no evolutionary advantage to overworking yourself into chronic illness. Emma’s sister’s name was Fanny. The name Fanny makes my five-year-old laugh out loud. Emma and Charles had 10 children in 17 years, between 1839 and 1856, and Emma was 48 when she gave birth to their youngest kid. That’s a good run for a human — genetically superior, I’d say. A definite evolutionary advantage. Good choice Chuck made there! Charley was a doting dad, I understand.

The formula for terminal velocity is: Vt=sq. root(2mg/pAC). For those of you who don’t know what those obvious symbols mean, I have a fish for your car. “Vt” means “velocity terminal”. “sq. root” means “squirrel root”. “mg” means “milligrams” and “pAC” means “political action committee”. Thus, we can read the formula as “velocity terminal equals the squirrel root around 2 milligrams per political action committee.” The rest should now be obvious if you are properly evolved and enlightened.

Most of the folks I know who have a beef with God have never met Him. They seem to be particularly pissed off at Jesus, because they effectively say, “Jesus seems like he was a really good man and a wise teacher. I don’t want to have anything to do with Jesus.”

Some of these people claim to have met God, but decided to give him the cold shoulder even though He never did anything to hurt them, all because some self-proclaimed Christians they met were jerks.

I’ve met a couple of atheists who are jerks. I’ve met a pagan who was a jerk at times. I met a Muslim who is a jerk toward non-Muslims. I’ve only met a couple of Satanists, but didn’t spend enough time with them to determine whether or not they are jerks. Every group of more than about a 100 humans seems to have at least one jerk in its midst, so I’d be surprised to learn that Satanists don’t have their fair share of jerks. Thus, I think it is safe to assume there are at least a couple of Satanists who are jerks.

I don’t think Darwin was a jerk. I don’t think he’d have stuck a Darwin fish on his car, if he could have owned one of each, or even on Gustave Trouvé’s car. I also don’t think that Darwin gave up his Christian faith because some Christians he knew were jerks, and I bet he knew some that were. I know I do. Darwin doesn’t strike me as the type who would let others control him that way. And even though Darwin and I might disagree on the origin of squirrels, I’m willing to bet we’d have respected one another as reasonable men even though we disagreed.

Regardless, I know we’d agree on this: it’s amazing that squirrels can fall from 30,000 feet and probably survive. It’s all part of what makes them perfectly suited for living lives scampering and leaping about in the trees a hundred feet in the air. Whether they are the result of a long evolutionary process or an instantaneous one doesn’t change the marvel of squirrels and that every detail of a squirrel and its behavior is perfect for being squirrely. There is nothing else in the universe better suited to being a squirrel than the squirrels we have in our back yards. No matter whether you believe in God or not, you have to admit there is something pretty fantastic and even miraculous about that. I bet if you go out and spend a couple of hours watching squirrels (or any animal) in your yard, you’ll come away at least a little bit awed.

And that, my friends, is what humans alone are perfectly suited for doing. That’s what makes you and me so deserving of respect, no matter how different we are or what we believe about God or the origin of squirrels. That’s what makes us human and demands and enables to embrace rather than punch one another in the face: love.

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