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The Quixotic Engineer

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Segways are Awesome

Segway Police

You may or may not know that I've been a long-time of proponent of the Segway Personal Transporter. Why, you might ask, would I support these silly devices? I have two important personal reasons.

Firstly, they're a triumph of engineering. As vehicles that constantly appear to be in peril of falling over, they defy our expectations by remaining in perfect balance using a combination of computers and gyroscopes. Anything that harnesses the power of physics to do something counter-intuitive (see the levitating frog experiment) is alright in my books.

Secondly, it is literally impossible to look cool on a Segway. They're the dorkiest things imaginable, something out of a bad sci-fi film. In that sense, they're the antithesis of the modern trend of form over function. If buying an SUV is supposed to make you look sporty and tough, then a Segway gives you a vibe somewhere between a mad scientist and Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons. Therefore, riding one anyways is a giant "fuck you" to the modern fashion obsessed, cosmetic surgery, teeth whitening madness; I look like a huge nerd and I don't care!

Need further proof that Segways are awesome? How about the Chicago police officer who chased down a shooting suspect on his Segway. Cruising at 12.5 mph, the officer wore down the suspect to the point of exhaustion then jumped off and arrested him. As District Commander Kevin Ryan put it: "These don't wear down -- people do." What I wouldn't give to have seen THAT chase scene.

Would I actually buy a Segway? No, they cost upwards of 5000 USD and I'm already a big fan of walking and biking. Despite what some enthusiasts believe, I don't think that any able person can really justify personally owning a Segway. I do, however, see potential in the device for tourism, police patrols and post offices. They rent Segways in the Old Port of Montreal, and one of these days I'm going to make the time to give one a whirl.

[Thanks to Clive Thompson at Collision Detection for the Segway Policeman Story]



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