Monday, March 12, 2007

[The Random Factor #15] Going balls to the wall

Riddles & Facts & Quotes, Oh My!

We've all heard the phrase "balls to the wall" and
know it to mean "going full speed" or "going all
out." But, where did that phrase come from?

Any guesses?

It's not an outdated mating ritual, nor a test of
manhood. The phrase comes from the world of the
fighter pilot.

A pilot accelerates by pushing the plane's throttle
forward. At maximum speed the "balls" or knobs of the
throttle are pushed all the way forward pressed to
the "wall" or panel.

Going balls to the wall (and particularly when combined
with a sharp turn) can also stretch our understanding of
space-time. G-force is a unit of acceleration approximately,
32.174 ft/second, or as it's more commonly known, gravity.
Ladies and gentlemen, hold onto your mouse, right now
you're experiencing 1 G.

So, what the heck does "2 Gs" mean?

Simply put, 2 Gs is when a 150 lb. fighter pilot weighs
300 lbs. This begins to make sense when you consider the
sensation and appearance of being smashed into the seat
during acceleration. When a pilot turns at high speeds,
they might "pull" 8-10Gs. Modern jets, and amazingly their
pilots (with the help of special suits) are able to
withstand Gs in the teens. John Stapp, a colonel with the
US Air Force survived 46.2 Gs during a lifetime of training
that smashed him up pretty good.

While the average pilot can handle a relatively large number
of Gs for a short duration, it is the sustained Gs from
prolonged acceleration that causes "problems" ... such as
passing out. [side note: Is it a coincidence that losing
consciousness is a symptom of testing the limits of space-time
or is this a glitch in "The Matrix?" Apparently, like sleep,
traveling at high speeds will trigger a "pilot eject" button
seperating your consciousness from your body, or as Ram Das
called it, your "space-time suit."]

For us land-lovers the motorized-vehicle translation of
"balls to the wall" would be "pedal to the metal." But this
would seem to fall well short of the experience of going
"balls to the wall."

That's ok though, because while going full speed is great,
it is not so important as going the right direction.

Blessed are those who's compass is true,

Some Guy


P.S. There is another fact relating to "balls to the wall."
It would appear that there is an urban myth around the
origin of this phrase.

The myth goes that in the days of the steam engine, there
was a mechanical device called a governor which had two steel
balls mounted at the ends of two arms, attached to a vertical
shaft inside the engine. The balls start out hanging but as
speed increases the shaft begins to rotate and centrifugal
force forces the weighted balls outwards towards the inside
of the casing.

At maximum speed the balls are parallel to the ground and
nearly touching the wall of their metal housing, therefore
an engineer driving at full speed is going "balls to the wall."

Interesting story, but not true according to


This text published originally in the newsletter
The Random Factor at because
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therefore the stimuli in which it's rooted.

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