among numerous advertisements that have been bothersome recently (really, could Applebees possibly get more annoying?) is a billboard ad i keep seeing for Jaguar, the luxury carmaker. next to a picture of one of their sleek but still rather ugly cars it says:
Born With: 390 Hp
Lives For: Mach .21
now i realize that the average person is not necessarily the target for this automobile, but there's a few things wrong anyway, even overlooking that the car is technically not "born" nor does it "live". first off, the measurements are given in units that virtually no one can attach any real meaning too. 390 seems like a lot of horses, sure, but how does that compare to the Nissan Sentra that just cut me off? and i know that Mach 1 is the speed of sound, which must be pretty damn fast, though who knows exactly how fast. but the use of a decimal represents another problem. not only does it mean that people are being asked to adjust the value of something they're unsure of, but they're being asked to do it by a factor of less than 1, which serves to diminish the impressiveness of the feature. if i were to call myself .02 of a millionaire, that would just sound rightfully ridiculous.
so what does Mach .21 mean in everyday terms? a quick Google excursion tells me that it equals 71.4609 meters/second. all well and good, but yet another conversion will be needed - even if we used the metric system - in order to put that into the terms usually associated with car travel . fortunately, the good folks at Iowa State have a conversion table that tells me to multiply by 2.24 in order to get miles/hour. finally we arrive at their intended message: this car wants to go 160 mph (i've rounded the decimal down). that's faster than i've ever gone in a car, and i'm pretty sure the NHTSA would probably frown on enticing people to go so fast, which is probably why they've chosen such a roundabout manner of expressing this idea in the first place. wouldn't a direct approach be more effective, something like "Damn... this car is fast, beeotch!"? why go to so much trouble to play up a feature that most consumers would never be able to take advantage of?
click here for an interesting page about why speed limits should be abolished. oh, the speed of sound is about 761 miles/hour at sea level, and considerably slower at higher altitudes