Saturday, May 28, 2005

Cartoon physics

One of the more humourous features of the the Warner Brothers Road Runner cartoon series is the sight of the wily coyote forever running off the edge of a cliff, but only plunging to the ground when he notices that he has gone too far.

So stylised is this feature that it is known as Cartoon physics (and here), the principle elucidated being that: "When someone runs off a cliff, gravity has no effect until the character notices the error."

It appears, however, that this peculiar brand of physics applies not only to cartoons but also the fantasy world of the single currency – aka the euro – which has long departed from terra firma yet has still to plunge earthwards to destruction.

Part of the reason why this should be so is explained today in a long feature by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, published in the business section of The Daily Telegraph.

Headed "How long can the euro live as an orphan", in it Ambrose points out that the euro is a stateless currency, which will have difficulty surviving without the constitution which is intended to create a state to support it.

But the singular point he makes is in citing a "veteran" Eurocrat who complains that: "The trouble with the single currency is that it jams the warning signals when countries do stupid things, and then it seals the exit hatch. That's how you get an explosion."

The only trouble is that, unlike in cartoons, after the "explosion" the characters do not instantly reform themselves – they stay shattered. But, with the warning signals jammed, this shows why the first law of "cartoon physics" is having its effect and the euro has not yet crashed to earth.

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